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Police issue warning over US visa fee gouging

September 12, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Most Australians travelling to the US require a visa waiver using the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) and the system works well – but recently a few dodgy types have found ways to gouge travellers by charging heavily for the service.

Queensland Police have issued an alert, warning that with September being the peak period for Australians holidaying in the USA, unauthorised websites purporting to sell visa waivers are duping some travellers before their holiday even begins.

Police urge travellers to be wary of how they obtain their ESTA and to avoid third party vendors.

“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,” they warn.

“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.”

Police advise travellers that some unauthorised websites are difficult to distinguish from the official website “so keep in mind that a visa waiver obtained from the USA Government, the official ESTA provider, will only cost USD 14 and involves a straightforward online application”.

Booking through a travel agent is another way of avoiding the trap.

Travellers should not rely purely on internet search results and should instead visit the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website for the direct link to the official ESTA application page, police advise.

Edited by Peter Needham

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