Dear Journal: That Facebook quiz may get you hacked

Editor’s note: Karen Harris Tully is a writer who lives in Raymond and has agreed to keep a journal to share with Daily World readers during the odd and uncertain time we’re all navigating.

Dear Journal:

My author website was hacked. A while back, a good friend visited my site and texted me to say: “Did you know you’re advertising Russian mail order brides?” What?! Of course I was NOT!

You can laugh, but unfortunately, a hacker had somehow gotten onto my site and added posts for mail order brides and knock off Viagra. I kid you not. I immediately deleted the posts, added security, and changed my passwords. I was thankful we’d caught it right away, and that I don’t keep any personal info (mine or anyone else’s) on my site. Still it was mortifying. I try to be careful, but I guess it can happen to anyone.

Which brings me to something I’ve noticed more of on Facebook as people spend more time at home. There seem to be a lot of seemingly innocent games and questionnaires, often starting something like this: “I wish more people did these. It’s fun to learn odd little things…” And then someone fills in their favorite food, movie, color, book, middle name, first pet, first job, birth date, street they lived on as a kid, cities lived in, favorite vacation, etc. I even saw one listing parents and grandparents’ going back several generations saying, “who knows, maybe we’re related!” Seems like fun, right? No! That’s Mom’s maiden name.

Some of the questions are undoubtedly harmless. But, mixed in are the type of secret questions that banks use to secure bank accounts. And Facebook makes everyone put in their birth date, and other personal info (I use my “online” birthday, April 1, for these sorts of things. No, that’s not my real birthday. Yes, I lie because it’s none of their business.) Even when I mark my info private, once in a while it suddenly becomes public, or the company gets hacked, and I have to change passwords and wonder, “who has my personal information?” Am I paranoid? Maybe. Have I probably messed up at some point? Absolutely.

But please, it may seem like a fun game to answer questionnaires online with friends, but ask yourself, who wants to know all this detailed personal information? If the answer is identity thieves, well, there you go.

Karen Harris Tully is a novelist living in Raymond with her husband and two small children. She writes sci-fi/fantasy for teens and adults and can be found at