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Online Covid-19 quizzes could be collecting personal data, public warned

By Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter

People have been told to be cautious of online quizzes related to coronavirus as they may be harvesting data for fraudulent activities.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) says it has received intelligence about a number of “Covid-19 quizzes” being shared on social media, which claim to test a person’s knowledge on the pandemic but actually ask unrelated questions about personal information.

These include asking for details such as maiden names, family information, pets and contact details, including email addresses and telephone numbers, all bearing the hallmarks of a data harvesting operation commonly seen in financial fraud and identity theft, the institute warned.

“The general public should be wary of online quizzes, especially those themed around the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic,” said Katherine Hart, lead officer at the CTSI.

“Many of them ask personal questions which may seem harmless at first, such as pet names; however, scammers can harvest this data to create a full profile of the target.

“Security questions for bank accounts and online passwords usually incorporate this kind of information.

“The public should remember that each little tid-bit of information shared online is available to fraudsters to pick up and assemble into a target profile.

“My advice is – think about what you are putting online, and who could potentially see this information.

“Over time this adds up, and you may find that you have placed much more information about yourself online than you first thought.”

It comes amid a spate of scams linked to the pandemic, as criminals seek to capitalise on people’s fears.

Fake food shopping vouchers and a bogus text telling individuals they have been fined for going out during lockdown are among them.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in all kinds of scams, ranging from the doorstep to email, telephone and social media and everyone should be extra cautious of what they communicate online at this unprecedented time,” added Leon Livermore, chief executive of the CTSI.