When you're moving country you'll end up giving your email and personal information out to all sorts of different places. Some of them are more legitimate than others, so you'll start to see the spam into your inbox increasing and risky sites popping up. Here are some tips to keep safe when you're giving out your details!
First things first.
Who should you give your personal information to?
This should be a no-brainer, but it's worth repeating: Don't give out any personal information to websites that aren't official. The U.S. is still the wild west when it comes to patrolling websites and stopping ones pretending that they're the official resource.
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 lookout for a few things:
- A .gov address (.org isn't as reliable as you'd think, be careful)
- A green title bar and padlock at the top
- 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), don't give them all your details! Google around and make sure that their reputation is good and that they're the official site for whatever you're applying for.
What information should you share online?
Your passport number and birthday are essentially 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).
Who should you share your email address with online?
So what about your email address, how do you keep that from being the target of spam? Well, I've got one trick you're going to love because it will save a lot of heartache.
If your email address is email@example.com did you know that you can make it firstname.lastname@example.org 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. email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 emails 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 with them.
In Gmail, you can also set up a filter for everything sent to email@example.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!