Stop Playing Games

If you’re playing games on social media: STOP! Yes, you heard me right. I said STOP! Every time you post your responses in the Comments section, you’re giving identity thieves more and more information, and at the small price of paying attention on a thief’s part.

If you don’t believe me, let me show you how this works using John Q. Public. Online, he’s known as J.Q. Public. To protect himself from identity thieves and other unsavory online characters, J.Q. makes sure he doesn’t post his birthdate publicly. He doesn’t say where he was born or where he lives. In fact, he’s gone as far to use every possible safety measure offered by the social media site he’s using to ensure his private information remains private.

He stops by a social media friend’s page and see this meme. It’s a fun meme and so J.Q. participates.

Hallowe'en Name

After all, how much harm can this do when J.Q.’s initials are already known? So he posts: Hipster Miss Piggy. He laughs heartily and decides to add his middle initial and posts: Hipster Steampunk Miss Piggy.

Meanwhile, on a fan page for one of J.Q.’s favorite musicians, there’s a meme that will tell you what your Blues Musician name is. It sounds as much fun as the one he just did, so he goes along with this one as well.

Blues Musician Names

It’s another fun meme and J.Q. decides that it’s pretty harmless. So he goes ahead and plays this meme as well. He’s Boney Duke Bradley, thereby confirming to an identity thief that his middle name really does being with the letter Q.

But the thief still hasn’t got J.Q.’s first name. Not to worry though as J.Q. is going along with another meme the next day that sounds hilarious! A business associate he knows has put this gem of a meme up and J.Q. plays along.

Leprechaun Names

J.Q. knows that the meme is inappropriate and most likely offensive to the Irish or those of Irish descent, but it’s far too funny a Leprechaun name not to share and so he posts his Leprechaun name for laughs: Greenie McFeverish. That sounds like a pretty good silly name but what John doesn’t realize is that the identity thief now knows his first name begins with a J and ends with an N.

He might be John; he might be Jonathan. He might be any name that begins with J and ends with N. He might be Jaden, Jorden, Jordan, Jordyn, Jason, Jackson, Joaquin, Jameson, Jefferson, Jensen, Julian, Justin, or any other male name that beings with J and ends with N. The thing is, the thief knows this to be true, and so the thief has another piece of the puzzle.

This same online friend posts a second meme as J.Q. answers the first one, and since he’s already on the page, he decides to go along with this one as well.

Silly Spirit Names

His Dancing Spirit name is Gifted RainDancer. Woot woot! That’s a pretty cool Dancing Spirit name, and J.Q. reminds himself to share that with his partner when he gets home from work. This means the thief knows he can discount any first name that begins differently than JO and that doesn’t end with an N.

A few days pass, and another business associate posts a meme on his business page all in good fun. After all, who doesn’t like watching Bruce Lee and Jet Li and Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris movies? So he joins in on the fun with this meme.

Ninja Name

Yes, it’s probably a little racist and is probably insulting to those who are Asian, but it’s all in good fun, right? And so he posts his Ninja name: Zumo Rito. The new name is pretty funny, and it’s not that bad since most people have probably already guessed that the J in his name most likely stands for John or Joseph. Except that now an identity thief knows for sure that his name is John Q. Public.

One day later, another meme on another friend’s page shows up and since J.Q. is a huge fan of Star Wars as is his social media friend, he not only plays along, he shares his Star Wars name, too.

Star Wars Name

J.Q.’s mom was a Smith before marrying his dad, and they lived in Chicago when he was born, so J.Q.’s Star Wars name is posted as PubJoh Smchi. The bad thing about this is that J.Q. has unwittingly given the identity thief another piece of the puzzle since now he knows – along with J.Q.’s name – that he was born in some city whose first three letters are: CHI.

Based on what the thief has sourced about J.Q. online, and as posted by J.Q. himself, he knows J.Q. grew up in a large metropolitan center.   A smart thief knows that these are the large metropolitan centers around the world that begin with the letters CHI.

Chía (Colombia)
Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Chiayi (Taiwan)
Chiba (Japan)
Chibi City (China)
Chicago (United States)
Chiclayo (Peru)
Chifeng (China)
Chigasaki (Japan)
Chihuahua (Mexico)
Chikmagalur (India)
Chillán (Chile)
Chilpancingo (Mexico)
Chimalhuacán (Mexico)
Chimbote (Peru)
Chinandega (Nicaragua)
Chincha Alta (Peru)
Chingola (Zambia)
Chiniot (Pakistan)
Chirala (India)
Chirchiq (Uzbekistan)
Chishtian (Pakistan)
Chişinău (Moldova)
Chita (Russia)
Chitradurga (India)
Chittagong (Bangladesh)
Chittoor (India)
Chitungwiza (Zimbabwe)
Chizhou (China)

Since J.Q. Public’s name is English, and other comments J.Q. has made online by his own hand, most of these countries can be discounted.  You see, J.Q. has posted congratulatory notes to friends and family, talked about his old junior high and high schools, commented on the Sundays spent visiting his grandparents in their downtown apartment and being able to see the Chicago Sun-Times building from their balcony, and more.   The thief determines that J.Q. Public is originally from Chicago.  A quick check of birth records reveals that a John Quincy Public was born on January 1, 1950 in Chicago to James Public and Jane Smith.

A week later, another meme pops up on the first friend’s page, and because the first game was so much fun, J.Q. decides he’ll play along on this one as well. Besides, it’s a Positive Energy name and who doesn’t want to be associated with positive energy?

Positive Energy Name

J.Q. laughs to himself as he posts his new name: Immortal Vitality Bird.  After all, it’s such a funny name!  Of course, J.Q. doesn’t realize that by posting his Positive Energy name, he has just confirmed for the thief that J.Q.’s birth is January 1 without a doubt, in a year that ends in zero.   This lines up with the quick check of birth records that revealed that a John Quincy Public was born on January 1, 1950 in Chicago to James Public and Jane Smith.

Not realizing this, when J.Q. comes across something interesting in his social media newsfeed, he clicks through.  What he found in his social media newsfeed looks a lot like this:

Year You Were Born

Since he’s had so much harmless fun with the other memes, he decides to LIKE the page and search for the status update that has his year in it. Upon finding the status update that covers 1950 through to 1959, he clicks LIKE and continues his online surfing.  J.Q. has now confirmed for the identity thief that he was born in 1950.

So what did these 8 silly games reveal about J.Q. Public to an identity thief?

NAME:  John Q. Public (John Quincy Public)
BIRTHDATE:  January 1, 1950
BIRTH PLACE:  Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
FATHER’S NAME:  James Public
MOTHER’S NAME:  Jane Public (nee Smith)

That’s all an identity thief needs to piece together other pertinent details that will make the theft believable to those who don’t know the real John Q. Public born on January 1, 1950 and raised in Chicago, Illinois.  Yes, the identity thief can now successfully take on J.Q.’s identity and destroy J.Q.’s credit record (among other things), at no cost to the thief, and just by paying attention and piecing together a few pieces of toss-off information courtesy of J.Q.

And how much did it cost J.Q.?  Nothing more than the time it took to play and post the answers to 8 silly online games that he found on his online friends’ and colleagues’ social media pages, and in his newsfeed.

Elyse Bruce

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One Response to “Stop Playing Games”

  1. cairennhouse Says:

    Elyse– It’s demoralizing to realize how vulnerable we all are online. It’s hard for me to fathom how thieves expend so much energy working to attack us, and yet it seems they do. This is our modern reality, and now we’ve been warned. No more of these games for me. Fortunately, I have rarely indulged. Just luck on my part, not good sense. –Jayne Hyatt


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