My dreams of a new life shattered by Internet visa scam
False US Green Card Diversity Lottery 'win' breaks my heart
This morning I saw my future flash in front of me. I opened an email from the US Department of State telling me I am one of the 50,000 winners from the Diversity Immigration Visa Program. I had been selected by a computer from the 12.1 million entrants.
My heart raced, "Is this really happening? My dreams of living in New York are finally going to come true." Why wouldn't I win the Green Card lottery? My friends had won it before and are now living happily in New York with their Green Cards.
The Diversity Immigration Visa program is a United States congressionally-mandated lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card. It is also known as the Green Card Lottery.
At the time of application, which is a strict two month window per year, I was at home in Dublin processing my J-1 Visa, filling out all the necessary forms and attending my embassy interview, for the one year J visa so it was highly likely that I did in fact enter the draw. I was so hell-bent on living in New York that I was applying for every opportunity I could find.
I examined the email again. It looked very official, with the same logos as the U.S. State Department website www.state.gov. I’m wondering is this real or just a very good Photoshop job?
Screw up number 2:
I read the email again, it said:
"U.S. Government helps you with the accommodation and offers you Health Insurance (Freedom HSA Direct Individual Health insurance for 1 year), Dwelling (Apartment in any city you prefer, 1 bedroom for 3 months ), a guaranteed job (in the field that you are currently qualified so you can start working even from the first week you arrive in the United States and get paid as U.S citizen.) and education (for U.S. Students or Higher Education through EducationUSA. It includes transfer to a U.S college or University so you can continue your educational study.)"
This sends alarm bells ringing. The U.S Government are going to not only give me an apartment for three months and offer me health insurance, but are guaranteeing me a job also? This can't be real.
I read on. They explain to me that I must pay $819 Diversity Visa fee, that 'this is the only fee a winner needs to pay throughout the entire relocation process.' It also adds that accompanying family members may be included in the program and their visas will be provided at the same time with mine - however the fees must be paid per person.
So now my family also have Green Cards for the U.S, and they didn't even apply!
I wondered where they got my email and how they knew I had applied for the diversity visa, there is skullduggery at work here somewhere.
Screw up number 3:
"The fees must be paid using Western Union money transfer and will be processed by the U.S. Embassy in the United Kingdom,' the email reads. 'After you find a Western Union agency you need to go with cash money, an identity card and send the payment to the U.S. Embassy agent address in the U.K" It follows with a bogus name at address 24 Grosvenor Square, London, W1A 1AE.
As soon as I saw that I was to pay the fee through Western Union I knew again something was amiss.
"When you send money through a money-transfer company like Western Union, it cannot be taken back once sanctioned. Due to the services provided by companies like Western Union, fraud is very likely so you need to be very careful."
I Googled the address given for the money transfer to be sent and it is in fact the American Embassy in London. I knew this must be a scam, but the email looks so real.
Plus when you want something badly enough you tend to ignore the warning signs and possible consequences. I mean, what if this is real? I would get to live in New York for as long as I wanted! The career opportunities I would have. I could move around the States, maybe live in San Francisco for a while. The thought of what it would mean to have a U.S. Green Card was insurmountable.
I visited the official site of the U.S. Department of State to see what it says about the DV Lottery. It reads ‘The Department of State, Office of Visa Services, advises the public of a notable increase in fraudulent emails and letters sent to Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program (Visa Lottery) applicants. The scammers behind these fraudulent emails and letters are posing as the U.S. government in an attempt to extract payment from DV applicants. Review the procedures for the DV program provided below, so that you know what to expect, when to expect it, and from whom.’
It adds that ‘The Department of State does NOT notify successful DV applicants by letter or email.’ This is when my heart drops. Any hope that it wasn’t a scam and that I really did win the Green Card Lottery and would be living permanently in a country I had grown to love, while nearing the end of my year long visa, was diminishing rapidly.
Initially I was so excited, but the tell-tale signs became obvious quite quickly. First the email was sent by an address ending in .com when the U.S. Government use .gov in all official emails and urls. Secondly, sending money via Western Union was a huge sign screaming ‘Dodgy’. Thirdly, the results of the DV Lottery are not sent via email but you need to check online yourself with a confirmation number you received at the time of entering the draw, which is another tell-tale sign, if you do not have a confirmation number and awaiting the month to arrive where you can check – then you didn’t even enter the lottery to have won it.
This is a well known scam people – don’t be fooled!
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