The White House recently revoked the freeze on many types of U.S. visas and announced new immigration legislation. But, like all big news stories, the situation has created new opportunities for scammers. With many people confused by changing immigration regulations, con artists are preying on visa-seekers by posing as U.S. government officials.
Here’s how this scam works. You receive an email that looks like it’s from the U.S. Department of State. It looks official, and even includes the U.S. seal. The message declares that you’ve won the “green card lottery,” a U.S. government program, officially known as the Diversity Visa Program, which grants 50,000 visas a year to individuals from selected countries. According to the email, you now qualify for a United States visa. To get it, all you need to do is download a form, complete it, and reply with a photo and copy of your passport.
The email is a phishing scam and can open you up to identity theft. Sharing detailed personal information, such as your name, birth date, address, marital status, and phone number, as well as passport photos gives scammers all the information they need to impersonate you.
Unfortunately, visa lottery scams aren’t limited to fake emails. Watch out for phony websites claiming to be affiliated with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or Department of State. These sites are not official, and often make false claims. For example, many offer to “assist” immigrants in applying for the Diversity Visa Program. They promise that if you hire them, your chances of receiving a visa improve. This claim is completely untrue. Often, the only way these services “improve” your chances is by including false information in your application. This practice will immediately disqualify you from the program.
Only apply for a visa through official websites. The only official place to get information about the Diversity Visa program and immigration visas is through U.S. government websites that end in “.gov,” such as state.gov or dvprogram.state.gov. You should apply directly for the Diversity Visa Program through the official U.S. Department of State website during the specified registration period, which will run from May 8 to September 30, 2021.
Be wary of people who assist with immigration visa applications, check for lookalike, and get to know scammers’ tactics. The Department of State has posted a warning about fraud related to the Diversity Visa Program.