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Keeping Your Information Safe on Social Media

With many folks staying at home to help flatten the curve through social distancing, people have naturally turned to social media as a source of entertainment. There’s been an influx of posting, sharing, and engagement on all social platforms. Even though social media is a great way to connect with friends and family during the COVID-19 quarantine, there are also risks that come with sharing too much information on these platforms any time.

One specific risk is sharing personal information via surveys, quizzes, and questionnaires. These are fun, engagement-based activities that users fill out or answer, and their friend group gets to see and respond. At first glance, these questionnaires seem harmless – just a little fun with your online community! However, your answers could be used by fraudsters, who are constantly looking for ways to steal your information.

 By filling out these quizzes, you may unknowingly give away answers to questions that are used to unlock or authenticate access to an online account. Most online platforms, especially those that hold sensitive information, use various methods to authenticate who is logging into the account. One of these methods is having the user answer security questions. The online vendor provides you with a list of questions and you provide the answers. If user authentication is needed when you are logging into the account, you will be required to answer these security questions.

It is so important that you keep answers to these questions safe.  Here are some things to look out for when you are surfing social media channels.

Questionnaires/Surveys

While scrolling through Facebook, it is common to see questionnaires or surveys filled out by friends and family members with their answers.  They usually contain 25-30 questions, accompanied by short answers. However, this is the perfect vehicle that scammers use to get useful information in a quick, easy way. The questions could range from “My first car,” to “My first pet’s name,” both of which are common security questions.

Buddy Tests

A recent trend floating around Facebook is “buddy tests,” where a user creates a quiz about himself or herself and then shares a link with family and friends to see who can get the most correct answers. While this may seem safe, since only those you share the link with can take the test, there are still security risks. The link could still end up in the hands of the wrong person.

Instagram Story Template

A trend on Instagram that has gained recent popularity is story templates. Users take templates from other users and fill out a questionnaire, answering questions such as “my high school mascot,” or “my favorite vacation,“ and then share it on their stories page. Similar to responses on the Facebook questionnaires, this information could be used to gain access to an account, if it gets into the hands of a fraudster.

What You Can Do

The best and most secure thing you can do is not participate in these questionnaires, surveys or tests. However, if you want to participate, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

Limit your Answers

Do not answer questions you know are common security questions for personal accounts. Even though it can be difficult to remember which accounts use which questions, avoiding answering popular questions will ensure your information does not end up in the wrong hands.

Update Security Questions

Double check online accounts and update your security questions and preferences. Most people choose the easiest and most convenient questions, however, selecting questions that you don’t normally answer offers more security.   

Develop a System for Answering Security Questions

Develop a unique system for answering security questions to ensure greater account security. For instance, if the security question is, “What was your first pet’s name?” most would answer, “Buddy.” However, you could instead answer, “My first pet’s name is Buddy.”  You could also make the answer an acronym, “MFPNIB,” (My First Pet’s Name Is Buddy). This way, you can still answer the security question, but have an added layer of security.

Inform Your Family and Friends

Make your family and friends aware of scamming tactics used on social media. Share this article, make a post on your social media pages, or simply send them a quick text. Communicating how to stay safe on social media to those closest to you will keep everyone safe!

Our main priority is making sure you and your families stay secure in every way possible. At Blackhawk, we take security very seriously, which is why we want you to stay up-to-date and informed. If you would like to learn more about information security, read our Blackhawk Talks eNewsletter!