Before You Answer That Fun Online Questionnaire, Read This

If you spend any time online at all, you've certainly seen folks posting answers to fun questionnaires on their blogs or Facebook pages. You know the ones, "25 Things About Me (You May Not Know)" or some such thing that basically gets you to post fun! facts! about! YOU! It's all simple and easy: you share all these fantastic little secrets with your friends, and then they do the same, and so on.

Some of these questionnaires even provide the questions for you, like:
  • What is your mother's maiden name?
  • Where were you born?
  • What was the name of the street where you grew up?
  • What was your first pet's name?
  • What high school did you attend?
  • What's your oldest child's middle name?
Fun for one and all, right?

Think about those questions for a second. Ring any bells? Those are the exact. same. questions. used for password recovery on many protected websites. Kind of makes you wonder who came up with these questionnaires in the first place? Maybe identity thieves?

Some of these questionnaires also get you to share personal information about your family. Details that strangers normally wouldn't know, but that might be just enough information to convince your child that the stranger approaching them at the hockey game or the swim meet is a friend of yours. Your online activity could be a goldmine of personal info even beyond the questionnaires if you post pics of your kids and check into Foursquare when you're out with them.

I've explained to the Dude that this is why his name, photo and videos are not on the open Interwebs. It didn't surprise him because his school has been doing a good job of teaching street and web smarts. Kind of makes me wonder why so many grown ups don't think about this stuff more thoroughly.

Posting personal information on the open web is never a good idea. And these memes uncover exactly what identity thieves need to get access to your accounts or, worse, your home and family. So next time someone forwards you one of those memes, why not pass on it and go play another round of Angry Birds? Stay safe.