Beware: New US visa scam targets UAE

Email phishing is common practice these days, but its popularity stems from the poor innocents who get lured into the trap of winning a lottery or inheriting a king’s ransom, all of which require recipients to wire transfer routing money and reveal bank account details.

If the “death of a Kenyan king” as one such email reads was not enough, another government body belonging to the USA has been targeted by finding its name dragged into a Permanent Resident Card scam.

The United States State Department phishing email (see pics above and below) states that ‘winners’ have won a lottery that ensures a guaranteed American Green Card or Diversity Visa with a mere processing fee of $880.

The spam mail goes on to explain its reasoning for a fee demand, stating the participation in the lottery is free, however, the winner needs to pay the said amount to book his or her slot in the list of names that make the cut.

The email continues to state: “The US Government helps you with accommodation and offers you along with each visa, Health Insurance, Dwelling (Apartment in any city you prefer, one bedroom for three months), a guaranteed job (in the field you are currently qualified in...), and education…”

The email continues: “You can send the payment in US dollars or the equivalent in you local currency,” which is followed by details of using Western Union Money Transfer as the preferred method of wiring funds.

The recipient of these funds is an alleged Jack Tierney, who is a US Embassy agent, based in London, which is included with the correct postal address of the government office. 

Official talk

If these guarantees sound too good to be true, it’s because they usually are. The US Department of State regularly warns potential immigrants about an uptick in the fake letters and fraudulent emails sent to people who have applied for the Diversity Immigrant Visa programme.

The Visa Lottery programme is conducted each year by the state department with 50,000 prospective immigrants being awarded immigrations applications. The winners are eligible to apply for a US visa and visit America.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, often times the scam involves an unscrupulous individual asking for a fee to either enter the visa lottery or increase the chance of winning it. However, the FTC says that there is no entry to enroll in the lottery and winners are selected at random.

The State Department says that there are a number of ways to recognise fraudulent emails and websites.

“Some websites and emails try to mislead customers and members of the public into thinking they are official U.S. government websites. These websites are designed to appear official, and often have images of the US flag, US Capitol, White House, or Statue of Liberty. What these websites and emails are missing is the “.gov” suffix on their addresses.” 
Forewarned is forearmed

Says one such phishing email recipient, Sarita Chaudhary: “I have ensured my spam filter on my email account is set at its maximum, but sometimes such emails do make their way into my general inbox. I never even bother to open such emails and promptly hit delete as soon as I see them.

“However, I do understand that there are gullible victims out there who get taken in with these promises. You can’t help but feel sorry for them and maybe be a little amazed at their stupidity.”

The UAE community blogspot has also raised this issue to make residents aware of the growing problem, with blogger Kyle posting: “What itself raises a caution flag is that a State or any other US Government department would never ask for a wire transfer via Western Union, let alone appoint an agent on their behalf, as this scammer claims in the email.

“Second, US Government Departments use the USPS (US Postal Services) for communicating with individuals.

“In case any member or reader has received such emails, treat them as scam and use Google to report this violation/violator to the proper authorities.

“Consider yourselves warned.”

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