Several days ago a Facebook friend tagged me in a note called “Name Game.” The way this “game” worked was for a friend to answer a series of serious and laughable questions allegedly relating to his or her name. In this case, starting with her full name, the list of questions called for and then combined with information from various other personal questions to develop a series of gag names — as I recall, examples included her movie star name, political candidate name, mafia name, celebrity name and so forth. The results were actually quite funny.
When I though about this later, though, it wasn’t funny anymore. You see, once you are “tagged” in such a note, you are supposed to do the name game yourself, post your own “name game” document and share with 25 or so of your friends whom you tag. This process would be harmless among honest friends but many people become friends with people on Facebook who they don’t even know. This name game document represents a potential recipe for disaster. Let me explain why.
In recording the answers for this “Name Game,” one ends up providing all of the following information: your full name, city of birth, mother’s maiden name, father’s middle name, and even pet’s name. That is a powerful combination of personal information. That’s when it hit me what this information represents. The answers to these questions are often used to verify identity for banking and other secure services. Armed with these answers and the victim’s email address (also obtainable via Facebook), a devious person could commit identity theft and other illegal or spiteful acts.
So, with this security risk in mind, I urge everyone to be prudent — even with fun and seemingly innocent things. Don’t share personal information in a non-secure environment like Facebook. Beware of frivolous questions involving personal information. Think before hitting send or replying. It could be your identity or reputation that you damage in a vulnerable moment.
One more thing to mention about this true story: I quickly contacted my Facebook friend about this security risk and she removed her “Name Game” note immediately. With this warning in mind, now is a good time to review the information you have posted previously and purge if necessary.