Cheryl Parson: Social media quizzes pose security risks

By Cheryl Parson - Better Business Bureau

We live in a small community. Let’s see how much we all have in common with a quick series of questions:

In what hospital were you born?

What was the make of your first car?

What is the name of your favorite teacher?

What is your favorite cartoon character?

What was the first concert you attended?

What was the name of your first pet?

What city were you born in?

Name a TV show that kids today may not recognize.

What was your first job?

Where did you meet your spouse?

What is your favorite movie?

Social media sites, especially Facebook, have recently seen an onslaught of quizzes, games, and surveys such as the one above, asking these and other similar questions, ostensibly to get you and friends to share common experiences of your pasts. They seem to be a fun, lighthearted, time-wasting way to engage with your online community.

They seem so innocuous that many thousands of people have not only honestly and willingly answered but have shared the memes so they can see what their social media friends’ answers are.

However, the questions are very similar – and often exactly – those that your banks or other institutions may use as security questions to access your personal data. Your participation in one of these social media quizzes may lead to you inadvertently giving your private answers to people who mean you harm. Hackers have automated tools that, using these questions, can build a profile and hack into your present accounts or open new lines of credit in your name.

We’re not suggesting you stop posting on social media but, instead be careful what you share and consider possible consequences before publishing this information for the entire world to see.

Here’s what you can do to stay safe on social media, not only with quizzes and the like, but other common pitfalls:

• Obviously from what you have read above, be careful answering social media quizzes. Only answer the questions you feel comfortable with. Do not post if the answer relates to a password or a security question.

• Even if you’re social network encourages it for your bio, do not give out personal information such as phone numbers, birth dates, address, and more.

• Be careful of links that take you from the social media site, especially those asking for personal information or credit card info. Most often, scam websites lack SSL certificates which are standard for almost every legitimate website. Safe sites will have the “https” designation as a part their domain address.

• Steer clear of any prompts for you to download and install apps or other files. Mobile app should only be downloaded from curated sites such as Google Play or Apple App Store. Any others should not be trusted.

• Make sure your anti-malware and anti-virus protections are up to date on your PC, Mac, or mobile device.

• If you receive something suspicious from a friend, don’t click it. Their account may have been hacked. Contact them through another channel to verify the message is legitimate.

• Be very careful about who you follow and okaying requests from unknown people or accounts. Doing so increases your chances of being scammed.

• If you think something on social media looks suspicious, trust your instincts, and do not click it. You’ll probably save yourself a boatload of grief and hassle.

We all understand the fun and connections that social media offers are important, but it is also important for you to recognize the real security risks social platforms may present and urge you to protect yourself accordingly.

By Cheryl Parson

Better Business Bureau

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

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