Scam Alert: That Facebook Quiz Might Be a Big Data Company Mining Your Personal Information

In light of the recent revelation that Cambridge Analytica allegedly mined personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, the Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers that what they share online can be used for illegal or unethical reasons.

Personality quizzes are especially popular these days on social media platforms such as Facebook, and generally seem innocent enough. However, you might be giving away more information about yourself, and even your friends than you thought.

These quizzes ask seemingly silly or useless questions, but hackers can use that information to penetrate your social accounts and gain access to your personal information or the information of your friends and family.

But the latest news shows that it isn’t just scammers who are interested in your quiz answers. It turns out, your personal information is big business.

“We always knew someone was trying to trick us with social media quizzes, because they are free” says BBB’s chief security officer Bill Fanelli, CISSP. “If there is no charge, then the value is the data they can collect. We also knew that it was for a use we probably would not like, because they went to such great lengths to hide their purpose. Now we know we were right on both counts.”

Not all social media quizzes are about unprincipled data collection, but BBB cautions users to be careful about what they share online. Profile data, quiz answers, and more can be used to steal your money, or let a scammer pretend to be you in order to steal someone else’s money. And now we know that seemingly innocent information can even be used to build a profile on you that can be sold to anyone trying to influence society.

Tips to avoid social media scams:

  • Be skeptical. Before you take a quiz, figure out who created it. Is it a brand you trust?
  • Adjust privacy settings. Review your social media account’s privacy settings and be strict about what information you share.
  • Remove personal details from your profile. Don’t share information like your phone number or home address on social media accounts. 
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/scamtracker). To protect yourself from all kinds of scams, visit the BBB Scam Tips page (BBB.org/scamtips).