Work & Money

Avoiding Quiz Scams

What’s your ideal dog breed?

What’s your real personality like? 

Where’s the ideal retirement location for you?  

…and what’s the password on your online bank account?


Online quizzes promise to tell you fun things like (for example) your real personality type, the dog breed that best suits you, the ideal post-retirement vacation for you and other quirky, interesting personal matters.

Who wouldn’t enjoy taking such a fun quiz?

Quizzing away your data

The problem: Our fondness for online quizzes (and surveys, too) can make it possible for scammers to gain access to our private information.  Scammers have figured out ways to collect a single data point here, another one there and link them to larger “data collections”.

Answering seemingly innocuous questions — your city of birth, your father’s first name, the color of your first car– can be data points that sophisticated scammers use to identify you.

Next step, disaster? 

Their next step?  Getting access to your personal financial information, your credit cards, bank accounts, even identity theft. Scammers are skilled at combining data points – with the help of the dark web, phishing, and scam phone calls  – to cause all sorts of mischief.

How to protect yourself

How to protect yourself?  The easy way is not to reply to any quizzes either directly or via social media, whether you visit it, or it visits you.  Still, if you find an online quiz to be so intriguing that you find it hard to resist, give faux information. For example:

  • Instead of your father’s first name, use a random name instead
  • Fake your birthday date and year.
  • Name a random birth city (not yours).
  • Favorite hobby? Name crocheting (when it’s really when it’s really quilt-making) or  wood-working (when it’s really fiddling with computers).

How best to protect yourself?  The basics are worth repeating. They include:

  • Using strong passwords for all your accounts. You know the rules: Create long passwords (the longer the better) that include letters, characters and upper and lower case letters.
  • Change your passwords often.
  • Use Two-factor authentication. Use a second – even a third — means of proving yourself.  A common authentication process used by financial institutions is to call you with a code that you must input before you can access your account.
  • Pick security questions that only you can answer. Public record security questions (like where you were born) are easily breached. Instead, use questions to which only you know the answer: the name of your favorite poem, your best friend from your first job, your oldest niece, or first college roommate, your favorite china or silverware pattern.  You can us anything as long as this information hasn’t been shared or revealed by you anywhere online. 

Why so thorough?  Scammers use incredibly sophisticated programs to scour – literally – millions of places where your information sits, waiting to be harvested and matched with other data.

If you fall for an online quiz (or survey) that you suspect is a scam, report it to  the FTC at

For more information on online quiz scams, go to the FTC’s site:

Your Turn

Have you fallen – or almost fallen – for a quiz scam? What tipped you off? Let us know in the comments!

Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and other outlets.




4 responses to “Avoiding Quiz Scams

  1. Changing passwords regularly is a good idea. My financial sites are only accessed from my home computer, and I change the passwords regularly. The not-so-used sites I change about once a year.
    The most important sites have unique log-ins and passwords. The once-in-a-while sites have simpler passwords. I keep records of all these in a physical journal. So no hacker can access it. And if my computer dies, I still have all my records.

  2. For date of birth, round up or down the day. If born on the 8th of the month, pick either the 1st or the 30th.
    Add or subtract a number from the year.
    So July 8, 1958, as an example, maybe pick July 1, 1957 or July 31, 1958 and use that.
    For pets name, if you have one or don’t, use a family members pets name or a friends pet name.
    Use email addresses that do not have your name in them, and don’t leave your real name in comments

  3. I’m starting to get scared. I’ve been online regularly for over 30 years. I don’t remember all the emails I’ve had or things I’ve signed up for. I always use my bday so I won’t forget. Is there a recommended methodical way to go back to square one?
    I’ve done Lots of chat & message online tech support with such as Apple etc etc. My name & info is smeared all over the place due to minor legal mistake over 30 yr ago. If someone looks me up they will see inaccurate embarrassing info.

  4. Having a problem w/ my Cricut machine so I googled their site looking for a phone number. I clicked on the site (which looked EXACTLY like Cricut’s site) & called the number. A guy answered and said he would walk me through to fix it & so I gave him access to my computer. BIG MISTAKE! He told me my computer was being hacked every 47 seconds & did I want to buy a Microsoft program for $499. I asked him WTH that had to do with my Cricut? Then I realized what I had done & hung up.

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