ELK GROVE (CBS13) — Viewer Walt Babigian discovered a free website that offers up a lot of personal information that could answer some of your most commonly asked security questions. The sites gather birth dates, birth places and mother’s maiden names from public records.
“It’s so easy for a criminal to get ahold of that,” said Babigian.
CBS13 ran an experiment, inviting two victims of identity theft to our station, where we asked which security questions they are asked the most. Luanne and Leah both said they’re commonly asked their mother’s maiden name and their birth date. We managed to pull up those answers online for each of them in just seconds.
“How secure do you think you are with those security questions,” Kurtis asked Leah.
“Not secure at all,” she answered.
Journalist Julia Angwin who wrote “A Dragnet Nation” says there are hundreds of websites out there selling or making available personal information. During reserach for her book, she identified more than two hundred websites that broker personal information.
“I tried to get my information removed from more than 200 sites, only 90 even gave options to remove the data,” she said.
Some experts suggest when you set up accounts, you lie about your security answers with answers like you were born in Disneyland, or your mother’s maiden name is supercalifragilisticexpialadocious. The American Bankers Association wouldn’t give an opinion on whether we should use fake answers, but said the financial industry is moving away from these types of security questions.
“Banks are required by regulation to use more sophisticated questions than “mother’s maiden name” when authenticating online banking customers….When authenticating customers by phone, such questions may be a part of a number of authentication measures the bank will take but will not be solely relied on,” Doug Johnson with the American Bankers Association said.
The fact these answers are so readily available makes Babigian uneasy.
“People are already taught shred your documents. Well, you can’t shred the internet. It’s there and it’s going to be there forever,” Babigian said.
Experts say you may consider password management software that can help generate and maintain complicated passwords.