Travel risk intelligence company, Riskline has warned against rising visa scams. In a press statement, Riskline says that visa scams are increasingly reported among travellers, as many countries are replacing paper visas and entry stamps with e-visas or Electronic Travel Authorisation systems.
Riskline says that while the internet has simplified application processes through which travellers gain entry permissions via quick and easy steps, this digitalisation has also resulted in new opportunities for scammers to deceive unexpert travellers into fake government websites.
To help travellers avoid the pitfalls, Riskline has prepared a guide on how to spot a fake e-visa website in just a few easy steps.
Riskline says that the first step is to avoid going in for the first website that appears in Google search, but instead look for simple signs that assure security. It says travellers must look out look out for “https://” and the padlock icon at the beginning of the URL. If both are present, it means that the connection is secure and safe for the user, it says.
It adds that travellers must ensure that they have navigated to an official e-visa application platform. Electronic application platforms are usually available via Embassy and Consulate websites, whose URLs likely terminate with the country code, it says adding that every country is identified by a 2-letter code, the ISO Alpha-2 code and whose list is available on Riskline website.
It says that if the country code is missing in the URL, then travellers should look for a section called “About Us”. Or for a statement from the agency describing who manages the process, and to which regulations they comply with. Typically, non-government-designated visa services would include a disclaimer stating that their services are not officially affiliated with the country’s government in the site’s bottom section.
Riskline says that another clue may lie in the design and content of the website. It adds that fake e-visa service providers mimic government websites by using country flags or logos that can look familiar, thus attracting inexperienced travellers to trust their websites instead of official sources. It adds that one can also spot them through unprofessional design and grammatical errors in the content. They might contain non-visa-related information or services such as travel tours, pop-up windows and advertisements. It says that if travellers are applying via a third-party service provider, they ought to verify their experience through credentials and reviews.
It adds that the procedures, processing times and fees to gain an e-visa are usually standardised. Fairly reduced application times are not reliable, as well as promises of special deals, discounts on visa packages or reduced fees. It advises travellers to avoid lotteries and emails or ads where visas are promised as a prize.
It also suggests to compare prices and times with different providers before trusting a third-party service provider. ‘‘If you are asked to book an appointment, keep in mind that most e-visa applications should be done online, therefore do not need any in-person appointments. Certain procedures or payment methods should raise suspicion,’’ says Riskline.
It also advises travellers to stay away from websites where they get one or more of the following requests:
- Click on links in an email, to open webpages or attachments, or to upload documents with sensitive information.
- Pay or transfer money via unofficial channels.
- Pay large amounts of money upfront.
- Buy gift cards or vouchers.
- Transfer money to release your information or fix your account.
- Give remote access to your computer.
It also advises travellers to anticipate issues related to fake e-visas. It asks them to verify contact information options before paying. If something goes wrong along the process, or one never receives the e-visa, the travellers should be able to know who to contact to solve the problem before travelling. It also asks them to verify in advance if thereis a refund policy.
It also asks them to verify fines and penal provisions in the countries where they are heading to. The inconvenience of gaining a fake e-visa is not covered by travel insurance. It says that therefore it is up to the travellers’ liability to be in line with travel document requirements. It adds that if they are found travelling with a fake visa, travellers may be arrested, jailed, or deported on arrival.
It adds that authentic government websites usually provide an advisory page and, in some cases, such as India, authorities provide a list of fake Indian e-visa websites.
It adds that whether they choose to apply for an e-visa yourself or to rely on visa service providers, make sure they link things back to the official sources, as Riskline does with Travel Search.