Nova Scotia

Why taking Facebook quizzes is a really bad idea

Social media quizzes may look harmless. But taking them for fun can leave you vulnerable to fraud, says cybersecurity expert Nur Zincir-Heywood.

'Never do these,' says cybersecurity expert

Prof. Nur Zincir-Heywood says she’s never taken a social media quiz, and warns of the risks of filling them out for fun. (Submitted by Dalhousie University)

Which Dr. Seuss character are you? Who will be your Valentine's Day date? Only a true genius will score 100 per cent on this quiz.

Popular social media quizzes, like the ones that pop up in Facebook feeds, may look harmless and fun — but taking them can leave you vulnerable to identity theft or fraud, according to CBC Information Morning tech columnist Nur Zincir-Heywood.

The Better Business Bureau, media literacy groups and police departments warn that hackers and scammers are behind many of these social media quizzes, so they can collect, use and profit from the personal information you share.

"Never do these," said Zincir-Heywood, a cybersecurity expert who teaches in the computer science department at Dalhousie University.

She said social media quizzes can ask the same questions your financial organizations use for security purposes to verify your identity when you need to change your password or access your account without a password. Some examples include the name of your hometown or the name of your first pet.

The different questions may not all be asked on the same quiz, she said. But multiple quizzes can elicit enough information that a cybercriminal might be able to access a bank or credit card account.

Zincir-Heywood said this can leave you vulnerable.

"Maybe they are watching [your] social media in general, they know your location, they know other things about you," Zincir-Heywood said.

"All of these then put together is a way to collect your information and, in your name, maybe open another account or use your account to buy their own things. It can go really bad."

Nur Zincir-Heywood says social media quizzes collect personal data that can be shared on the dark web. (Facebook)

Zincir-Heywood offers the following tech tips to protect yourself from their more nefarious side of social media quizzes: 

  • Be careful. Free quizzes offered on social media actually aren't free — you're paying with your personal data that big data companies collect for targeted advertising, or cybercriminals collect to sell on the dark web.
  • If you can't resist filling out these quizzes, provide fake information, especially to questions similar to security questions used by your financial institutions. For example, if you are asked, 'What is your favourite pet,' make up an answer.
  • Once you take these quizzes, you can't take back the information you provide. So keep a close eye on your online transactions for any unusual banking or credit card activity, for example a transaction you did not authorize or an account you did not create. 
Why finding out which Dr. Seuss character you resemble, could leave you vulnerable to fraud. Our tech columnist Nur Zincir-Heywood looks at the downside of taking Facebook quizzes. 6:52