Don’t you love being bombarded with “Happy Birthday!” messages on Facebook and other social channels? Love it or not, the fact that others know your birthday increases your risk of identity theft and fraud. Let’s see why you shouldn’t share your birth date online.

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The Threat

Scammers, fraudsters, and identity thieves can wreak havoc with just your name, date of birth (DOB), and address. Your name is probably very easy to find; you’re probably sharing it in many online profiles. You probably aren’t consciously sharing your address anywhere, out of concern for your personal safety. But you may not have realized that your birth date can be misused.

Credit bureau Experian says,

Identity thieves love to lurk on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and will notice congratulatory messages sent by friends and family to note your birthday. Unfortunately, an ID fraudster can use your birthday as a piece of the puzzle to capture your identity and commit identity theft.

The Telegraph reported that,

Fraudsters need just three key bits of information to steal your identity and access your accounts, take out loans, credit cards, mobile phones in your name. All it takes is a name, date of birth and address – and most of this can be found on social media profiles, such as Facebook. And if your settings are not private, this is available for anyone to see.

How to Increase Your Security & Privacy

The best way to increase your privacy is to hide your entire birth date (month, day, and year).

If you can’t live without the birthday wishes from friends, family, and connections you don’t even know, then at least hide the year of your birth date. People will still be able to see the month and day, so they’ll still know when your birthday is. Or, you could set your birthday to a day that’s a few days before or after your real birthday. You’ll still get birthday wishes, but won’t be revealing your true birthday.

Another option is to set a false birthday. I should point out that this is against the terms of service of some websites, such as Facebook, which require that you provide accurate information about yourself.

Don’t post how old you are on or around your birthday (“Well, I’m now over the hill, but I don’t feel any different!” or “Last day in my 20s!”). Doing so will reveal the birth year, even if you haven’t entered it explicitly.

If other people reveal your age in their posts or comments, delete them if you can. If you can’t, contact the person and politely ask them to delete their post or comment because you’re concerned about identity theft.

Let’s look at how to set or hide your birth date on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google. To find instructions for other sites, google “change birthday websitename” (for example, “change birthday instagram”).

Facebook

Instructions from Facebook:

  1. From your News Feed, click your name in the top left.
  2. Click About next to your name on your profile and select Contact and Basic Info in the left menu.
  3. Scroll down and hover over Birth Date or Birth Year, and then click Edit to the right of the info you’d like to change.
  4. Use the dropdown menus to change your birthday and use the audience selector to choose who can see it.
  5. Click Save Changes.

You can change who can see your birthday by adjusting the audience. There are 2 audience selectors next to your birthday: one for the day and month and one for the year. Friends won’t get a notification about your upcoming birthday if you don’t share the day and month with them.

Twitter

Instructions from Twitter:

You can customize your Twitter profile by adding your birth date. You can control who on Twitter can see your birth date on your profile by using your birth date visibility settings.

  1. Sign in to twitter.com or open your iOS or Android app.
  2. Go to your profile and click or tap the Edit profile button.
  3. Click or tap the Birth date section.
  4. Select or change your birth Day, Month, and Year. Please note that your birth date lets Twitter know that you’re old enough to use our services and that the birth date entered must be of the person operating the account.
  5. You can also review and change your birth date visibility settings. You will see two visibility settings, one to control visibility for your birth date year and the other to control visibility for your birth date month and day. Click a visibility icon (web) or adjust Who sees this (iOS or Android app) to change your settings. Learn more about your profile visibility settings.
  6. Click Save changes (web) or tap Done and then Save (iOS or Android app).

How do I remove my birth date from my profile?

You can remove your birth date from your profile by following the below steps:

  1. Sign into twitter.com or open your iOS or Android app.
  2. Go to your profile and click or tap the Edit profile button.
  3. Click the Birth date section.
  4. Change the values you selected in each of the birth date dropdown menus back to the default values (e.g., Day, Month, and Year) (web) or tap Remove birth date (iOS or Android app). To remove your birth date from your profile on the web, you will need to remove your information from all three of the birth date fields.
  5. Click Save changes (web) or tap Done and then Save (iOS or Android app).

LinkedIn

Instructions from LinkedIn:

  1. Click the Me icon at top of your LinkedIn homepage.
  2. Click View profile.
  3. Click See contact info in your introduction card.
  4. In the Contact info pop-up window, click the Edit icon.
  5. In the Edit contact info pop-up window, fill out the Birthday fields.
  6. Click Birthday visible to and select one of the following options:
    1. Only you – Visible to you
    2. Your connections – Visible to members directly connected to you
    3. Your network – Visible to LinkedIn members connected up to three degrees away from you
    4. All LinkedIn members – Visible to all LinkedIn members
  7. Click Save.

Google

Instructions from Google:

  1. Open your Google Account. You might need to sign in.
  2. Under “Personal info & privacy,” select Your personal info.
  3. Select the information you want to change.
  4. Follow the steps on the screen.

Further Reading

What You Should Do

  1. If possible, hide your entire birth date (month, day, and year). At a minimum, hide the year.
  2. Consider providing false information for your birth date (month, day, and/or year). Check if this is against the terms of service for the site you’re using.
  3. Don’t post anything that would allow someone to figure out your age or birth year.
  4. If other people reveal your age in their posts or comments, delete them or ask the person to delete them.

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