New ‘old’ travel scam is back

Australian tourists are being warned of a visa waiver scam that has been around for a while but is seemingly still taking travellers to the cleaners.

For eight years, fraudulent, third-party websites have been offering to facilitate the visa application process, with a hefty price tag attached. Anyone using the services of these websites is most likely being fleeced or putting their personal information at risk.

“Unauthorised websites acting as third-party providers of visa waivers are charging unnecessarily inflated fees and may even be putting travellers’ personal data at risk without providing a visa waiver to paying customers,” Queensland Police said in a statement.

“These websites vary in how they operate and while some websites are lawful third-party providers charging significant ‘service fees’, other websites fraudulently impersonate the US Government and charge customers exorbitant amounts without ever providing the visa waiver.

“While personal information is used by many businesses for legitimate purposes, this is not always the case; providing your personal information to these websites could be putting your personal information at risk.”

Anyone heading to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must obtain an authorisation online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA™), a service administered by the US Government’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website. The visa waiver obtained from the USA Government only costs US$14 – no more – and this amount includes the administration fee.

US government websites can be identified by ‘.gov’. The official ESTA website is https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.

To find out more about ESTA, please visit www.cbp.gov/esta

Related articles:
Seven classic travel scams
Online travel scams to avoid
Are you a mugger’s dream target?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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