AARP cautions about online quizzes

Published 4:57 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

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While scrolling Facebook, a quiz catches your eye: “Answer these questions and see which ‘Winnie the Pooh’ character matches your personality,” for example, or “What dog breed would you be?” You’re asked to name your first pet, favorite ice cream or top vacation destination. Revealing such trivia seems harmless — just fun chitchat with friends — so you dive in.

But that haste could cost you.

“Online quizzes on social media are kind of a recipe for disaster for identity theft,” says Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Chicago office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If, for example, you share the name of your childhood pet, you may be disclosing part of one of your passwords, he cautions

Your responses might even match your answers to the security questions you use to log in to your online accounts. Divulge the name of the street where you grew up, and you might unwittingly assist bad actors trying to access your credit report, Bernas says.

Your first car, your hobby, your high school — such answers are frequently used for online account security, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which recently issued an alert about staying vigilant when a personality test, survey or quiz shows up on your social media feed.

The bottom line: Social media quizzes are “great at harvesting information that can be used against you,” Bernas said. “We’re reaching a point with big data, with data analytics, with machine learning, with all of this, where each discrete little piece of data about you that seems harmless in and of itself, when combined, collated and analyzed, can be used effectively to build that comprehensive profile.” He calls it “death by 1,000 little cuts.”