Monday, January 28, 2008

Attention grabbing survey sites could set the stage for ID theft

There are a number of sites that quiz you about yourself and then tell you something about yourself in return. Our site does that as well. We ask you information about your personal daily habits and use proprietary algorithms backed by research to gage your risk for ID theft with an output that is in an easy to understand ID Risk Level. No ads, no personal information requested, not even email.

Someone emailed me recently asking about other sites that have quizzes and pointed out a few in particular and asked me how safe they are even if just for fun.

Some sites, by piquing your interest in certain, even silly subjects, are looking for something. There are a number of sites that purport being able to tell you when you are going to die! Wonderful, that information will certainly come in handy. It makes my retirement investment planning so much easier.

Well, you’re not gullible, but you went there for fun, as a joke, just to see, etc. All in good fun as long as you are not giving them any personal information.

So what could a site like this really be after? Mainly ad revenue. By getting thousands of people to go through the site and take the “date of your death survey”, they land you in a seemingly never ending, page after page of offers for everything from free laptops to a cruise around the world to magazines and so on. The catch is you have to get past saying no to these or fill out a few with your personal information like name, address, phone number, email etc. and what seems to be fairly harmless information. Only, once you go past the myriad of ads asking you to fill in information will you get your “calculated” date with the grim reaper.

So I tried it at a site this person asked me about. I answered the few simple questions and then waited for my results, it had to be calculated, apparently they have a long connection to go through and the grim reaper’s WiFi was down. In the meantime, they graciously had me take review some of their fine offers and click “no” if not interested. I counted 97 (yes, I counted because I assumed it was going to be big) offers that I said “no” to and still was not given my much awaited date with death. I even filled in a few with some random misinformation thinking if they got me on one maybe they would cough up that date! Nothing. I literally gave up as it was appearing to be more and more of a perpetual scam. I guess I’ll need to keep my retirement plans in place for now.

Seriously though, what was really happening was a massive operation to get you to provide just the basics of personal information. Now the company that runs the site may only be a conduit and collecting ad dollars from the marketing agency who is the real culprit in this operation. Fill one out correctly with real information and you have just asked to receive a minimum of 100,000 emails with other exciting offers include. Hey, you asked!

That information may possibly be used by them directly for ID theft, Spamming, phishing, etc. They may sell it to others who will use it unscrupulously. Worse yet, you will be put on a sucker list. This is a list created about people who willingly provide information thinking they are going to win a prize. AKA in their business “a sucker”. ID thieves love suckers. They know they are the easiest of easy targets. The people who think they will really get something for nothing, the same people who ultimately will give the thieves the keys to their identity in much the same way. The thieves already know you are an optimists, and play that hand against you to the fullest.

So the next time you go to a site and think you are providing information that is harmless, looking for that humorous “date of your death” you may find out a new date, when your identity was stolen.