BBB Scam Alert: Scammers Use Changing Visa Rules to Phish for Personal Information



 

The White House recently revoked the freeze on many types of U.S. visas and announced new immigration legislation. But like all big news stories, the situation has created new opportunities for scammers. With many people confused by changing immigration regulations, con artists are preying on visa-seekers by posing as U.S. government officials.

How the scam works

You receive an email that looks like it’s from the U.S. Department of State. It looks official, and even includes the U.S. seal. The message declares that you’ve won the “green card lottery,” a U.S. government program, officially known as the Diversity Visa Program, which grants 50,000 visas a year to individuals from selected countries.  According to the email, you now qualify for a United States visa. To get it, all you need to do is download a form, complete it, and reply with a photo and copy of your passport. Sounds easy right?

Think again! The email is a phishing scam and can open you up to identity theft. Sharing detailed personal information, such as your name, birth date, address, marital status, and phone number, as well as passport photos gives scammers all the information they need to impersonate you.

Unfortunately, visa lottery scams aren’t limited to fake emails. Watch out for phony websites claiming to be affiliated with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or Department of State. These sites are not official and often make false claims. For example, many offer to “assist” immigrants in applying for the Diversity Visa Program. They promise that if you hire them, your chances of receiving a visa improve. This claim is completely untrue. Often, the only way these services “improve” your chances is by including false information in your application. This practice will immediately disqualify you from the program. 

How to avoid visa scams

  • Only apply for a visa through official websites. The only official place to get information about the Diversity Visa program and immigration visas is through U.S. government websites that end in “.gov,” such as state.gov or dvlottery.state.gov. You should apply directly for the Diversity Visa Program through the official U.S. Department of State website during the specified registration period, which will run from May 8  to September 30, 2021.
  • Be wary of people who assist with immigration visa applications. The U.S. Department of State does not recommend you get outside assistance and makes it clear that outside help will NOT improve your chances of being selected or approved. If you must get assistance, be sure you only work with reputable persons and double-check that all the information they put on your application is 100% accurate.
  • Check for lookalikes. A website may appear to be official by using patriotic images but proceed with caution if the website does not end with “.gov.” The same goes for emails. All official visa-related correspondence will come from a “.gov” email address.
  • Get to know scammers’ tactics. The Department of State has posted a warning about fraud related to the Diversity Visa Program. Read up on scammers’ tricks to protect yourself from fraudulent offers.

For More Information

Read more about government impostor scams in our recent BBB study. Learn more about Diversity Visa scams on the Federal Trade Commission website.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams.

Subscribe to BBB’s weekly Scam Alerts.

 

Information courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

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