Thu, 2 Aug, 2018
How to avoid the latest travel scam that's ripping off Aussies
Travellers are being ripped off by a visa scam that is charging them more than six times what they should be paying.
Aussies who are travelling to the US are required to get an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), a visa waiver required for entry.
Despite the ESTA only costing AU$19, some travellers are being scammed into paying up to $120.
Unofficial sites are charging travellers more than $100 what the actual price is.
However, there is an easy way to avoid this travel scam.
Any travellers going to the US should get their ESTA by using the official US Customs and Border Protection website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/.
Escape reported that many sites seem official, but in the fine print it states they are not affiliated with the US government.
If you google ESTA, the top search results will take you to sites that are run by private operators, who are asking travellers to pay up to six times more than what the visa waiver is worth.
If a site asks you to pay more than US$14, then you can know that you are on the wrong website.
If you have paid for your ESTA on a fake website, stopping the payment can lead to it being declined if the scammer has already applied for it on your behalf.
A warning on the official site recommends travellers contact the US government to confirm if your ESTA is legitimate.
“We recommend you do this because we have no way of knowing if the information passed through the third party website to us is accurate,” it reads.
“If it is not, you may have a problem when you arrive in the US.”
If you are concerned over a site’s legitimacy, you can check the Australian Government’s Smartraveller site for clarification.
“We advise all Australians travelling overseas to find out early which visas they need by contacting the relevant foreign embassy or consulate of the countries they intend to visit,” a DFAT spokesman told Escape.
“Visa scams are common — check Smartraveller for the correct links to foreign missions’ web pages.”
Have you ever fallen victim to a travel scam? Let us know in the comments below.