Other than your Social Security number, birthdays are one of the worst things to share online when registering for an account. If you’ve also given up your mother’s maiden name, you might as well give online thieves a link to your bank account with the password.
Stealing your identity is how scammers open fake credit or debit cards in your name and buy all sorts of things before you learn of the crime. Your date of birth is one of the most important pieces of personal information to keep secret online, and there’s an easy way to protect it—lie.
When signing up for a product or service online that requires registering as a user, give the site your “unbirthday.” That is, a date you select that isn’t your real birthday, but a fake one you can use over and over again online.
For example, you can still use your real year of birth so that it’s easy to remember, but change the day and month. You may want to select Jan. 1 or April 15 (Tax Day) to make it easy to remember.
Websites may want your birthday for a few reasons. It can be used for security to verify you are who you say you are when you forget your password and can’t log in. Most likely it’s for demographic information the site sells to advertisers.
Some sites have a legitimate need to know your real birthday. If you’re applying for a credit card, your birthday and other personal information will be used to verify your identity and check your credit score. Debt collectors may also use it to verify your identity.
On sites that you’re uncomfortable giving your birthdate, such as a site where you’re not buying anything, you can also give a fake name. If the service is ever hacked, it’s less information that scammers will have about you.
Even when buying something online, a site doesn’t need to know your birthday, mother’s maiden name or other personal information. All it needs is your payment and accurate billing and shipping information.
One word of caution—some sites such as Facebook will kick you off their service for lying to them, even if it’s only a fake birthday. It’s your call if you want to try to get away with a fake birthday on a site that only wants it for demographic purposes.