SCAMwatch is warning all prospective travellers to be wary of unauthorised third-party websites which charge an inflated fee for arranging travel to the United States of America under the visa waiver program (VWP).
Since 12 January 2009, consumers wishing to travel to the USA under the VWP are required by law to obtain an authorisation before travelling. This authorisation is obtained online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA™), a service administered by the US Government’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website.
Since 4 September 2010, the United States government introduced a charge of US$14 for the mandatory ESTA for all individuals proposing to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. It is very important to make payments via credit or debit card through the official ESTA website rather than using links in emails or from other websites. For more information on these fees view the United States-New entry requirements page on the Smartraveller website.
SCAMwatch has received reports that unauthorised third-parties have established websites that charge higher fees for submitting ESTA applications to DHS.
The US Government does not charge more than US$14 to apply for or obtain a travel authorisation through ESTA. Full details on ESTA, including where to apply, can be found on the ESTA website. The website includes an official warning from DHS and uses a secure page to collect personal information—secure website pages begin with https.
SCAMwatch advises that internet searches for ESTA or visa waiver will call up many links that include ‘esta’ in the web address. Consumers should be on guard and immediately exit any website that is not the official ESTA website.
If you have lodged an application via a third-party website, you should contact the United States visa information service in Australia on 1800 687 844 (call charges apply).
SCAMwatch warns that these third-party websites can also place you at risk of having your identity stolen because they ask for personal details and your passport details.
If you have provided passport details via a third-party website, you should email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
- NEVER give personal details to people or organisations you don’t know and trust.
- Be careful about what personal information you provide on the internet; these details can be used by scammers to guess your passwords or to commit fraud.
- Log directly onto websites you are interested in rather than clicking on links provided in an email.
Visit the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.
Go to the SCAMwatch webpage for more tips on how to protect yourself.