Fake US visa website tricks trusting travellersJune 24th, 2009 • 9 Comments
As if border control in the US isn’t gruelling enough, a whole new world of paperwork arrived for travellers in January. ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) was implemented for everyone hoping to visit the United States, and although it’s branded as an electronic application system for the visa waiver programme, tourists still need to complete the green visa waiver form provided before arrival.
It’s a pain for sure, but no more irritating than, say, turning the shower off and discovering the towel is still in the airing cupboard. Still, it’s relatively straight forward to complete and it’s free, so there’s no real need to ask somebody else for help. That doesn’t stop people offering, or charging you for doing so.
Sky News reports that the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is investigating a company called Visa Express Ltd based in South Korea, that operates a site called estauk.com and charges customers $45 a time for submitting details to ESTA (although there’s no guarantee the information has been submitted). The company advertises using Google AdWords with an ad stating “Welcome to the US application website”.
The trouble is, ESTA is a site you only use once in a blue moon – your electronic visa waiver lasts for two years – so unless you land on the correct site straight away, you’ll be none the wiser, especially when you’re greeted by a very official looking homepage:
In fact it’s far more convincing than the official ESTA website, which has a design provided by a seven year-old and the user functionality of a frightened horse.
Anyway, the point is that the ASA are likely to get medieval on their ass, which invariably means a sound telling-off printed in a report and read by nobody. Still not to worry, let the people continue to email their passport details and bank account information to South Korea. What’s the worst that can happen, eh?
“(C) Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved , in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?”
As if a secret agent, terrorist or Nazi is going to answer YES to these questions.
“… ESTA is a site you only use once in a blue moon …” – I thought you had to update travel date & destination address details for every visit?
The Korean site is hardly the ultra-sophisticated netuser-trap you imply. It carries a dozen different spam hallmarks, the most obvious being the mangled syntax:
“Estauk.com is a website that received related information and applies ESTA for the English clients who want to enter the US for the various purposes such as traveling…
And if rejected, travelers should attain the visa through the US Embassy to enter the America.
You can check your result on our website, estauk.com, or it will be forwarded to your email account inputted in the application process.”
Even the Yanks don’t write English that badly.
O, and it does say ‘this website has no connection with the US government’ Though that’s probably just to cover their asses.
“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the communist party or an operative of a communist government?’
Paul – from the ESTA website: “If necessary, you can update the following information on an approved authorization: address while in the United States, flight information, email address, and phone number.” This is in the actual approval screen. Whether our brothers in the colonies mean “you must update” when they say “If necessary, you can update” … ??
Being the cautious type, I’ll probably amend address & date every time I travel – unless you have anything more definite or authoritative on this?
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