When you’re moving country you will end up giving your email and personal information out to all sorts of different places. Some of them more legitimate than others, so you’ll start to see the spam flying in and risky sites popping up. Here are some tips to keep safe!

First things first.

Don’t give out any personal information to websites that aren’t official.

I know there are lots of forms that ask for all sorts of personal information about you, and some of them certainly look official but be you should always look out for a few things:

  1. A .gov address (.org isn’t as reliable as you’d think, be careful)
  2. A green title bar and padlock at the top
  3. A third-party confirmed resource (e.g. search for it on this site, or send me an email)

If a site or company doesn’t pass the sniff test (i.e. It doesn’t “feel” right), do not give them all your details! Google around and make sure that their reputation is good and that they are the official site for whatever you’re applying for.

Your passport number and birthday are the essential secrets to your moving life (just like your social security number is the secret to your US future), so don’t be flippant with them. The last thing you want is someone opening up bank accounts, or causing immigration issues with your identity!

One example of this is when you’re applying for an ESTA. There’s only one official site, and if you’re applying at a different one, you’ll be handing your sensitive information to a third party without even realizing (and probably paying for the pleasure).

So what about your email address, how do you keep that from being the target of spam?

If your email address is josh@gmail.com did you know that you can make it josh+america@gmail.com and it will still come to you?

Google will ignore everything after the + but this way you can keep track of who you gave your email to!

You can customize it for each and everything you sign up for. josh+esta@gmail.com, and josh+americajosh@gmail.com, the list goes on!

Why is this helpful? Well if one of these sites does sell your information, or your information gets leaked, you will know where things went wrong, and you can block all email coming to that address! It will also alert you to the fact that the site may have distributed other elements of your information, so you can start to take steps to avert any future problems.

In Gmail, you can also set up a filter for everything sent to josh+badsite@gmail.com and filter it right out. This can be even more effective than your spam filter!

Be careful with your information and be vigilant when signing up for things. When in doubt, ask the question!