It’s a good approach, but most sites blow it by not actually allowing you to specify such a question. They give you a list of questions to choose from, and if none of the questions are suitable, tough luck.
Why might questions be unsuitable? Let’s look at an example, one of the worst I’ve seen: the new free AOL.
Here are the choices of question:
- The last 4 digits of your Social Security Number: Lots of people have access to this kind of information. It’s not particularly secret (even if it should be).
- Where were you born?: Not much help to someone who’s always lived in the same city.
- What is your favorite restaurant?: If I sign up today and three years from now I forget my password, will I still remember what was my favorite restaurant on this particular day?
- What’s the name of your school?: Yeah, it’s really hard for an impostor to answer this one.
- Who is your favorite singer?: See “favorite restaurant”.
- What is your favorite town?
- What is your favorite song?
- What is your favorite food?
- What is your favorite film?
- What is your favorite book?
- Where was your first job?: I could pick this one and specify that the answer is “I.P. Sharp Associates”. But three years from now I might answer it “Montreal”. Besides, anyone with access to my résumé could answer this. Mine is online and I make it easy to find.
- What is your pet’s name?: Usually not hard for an impostor to find out. (Oh, and my wife and I have five pets, not one.)
- Where did you grow up?: Again, not hard for a miscreant to determine.