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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection The Resource Center | article

Social Media Quiz or Cleverly Hidden Phishing Attempt?

Social media quizzes can be treasure troves of information for identity thieves online. Social media quizzes seem to everywhere these days. Quizzes to guess your spirit animal, quizzes to determine what movie character you're most like or quizzes to test your pop culture knowledge. While these quizzes look innocuous to us they can actually hide well-laid traps to obtain enough information to steal your identity.

You might think, "That's ridiculous! The questions on those surveys are silly!" but the truth is that some of those "silly" questions can be the keys to your identity.

Questions like:

  • What's your favorite color?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • What's your spirit animal?
  • Where did you go to high school?

You might have noticed that some of those questions are very similar to security questions used to protect your online accounts. Through a simple quiz, criminals can obtain enough information to steal your identity, commit credit fraud, and hijack you're social media presence.

Just one quiz can grant access to your personal information—which is what happened to fitness guru, Chaylene Johnson. As a New York Times bestselling author and a business coach, Johnson's online presence is her world. And shortly after taking a social media quiz, Johnson found her virtual identity held hostage.

The scammers took over her Twitter account and tweeted offensive posts to her more than one million followers and then sent her an extortion letter, claiming that they had access to every detail of her life and only the demanded money would "make this all go away." Johnson never imagined she would be a victim of identity theft, but it really doesn’t take much these days.

Stories like this one are becoming increasingly common making the job of keeping out identities safe a bigger priority. Anyone can be a target, so our best line of defense is being cautious about the information we parcel out. Never overshare on social media and create strong passwords for your online accounts. Many websites now allow you to create your own security questions, which can give you the chance to personalize and provide your account with extra security.

If you ever do have any reason to think that your identity was compromised, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. While no one can stop identity theft, credit monitoring services can alert you of certain activity on your credit files that may indicate fraud.