As part of the Tourism Promotion Act, from September 8th 2010 on, all visitors using the Visa Waiver program will be charged $14 for filling out this immigration form. Out of this fee, $10 will be used for international campaigns to promote holiday travels and tourism in the United States, the other $4 is an administrational fee.
However, it is not surprising that it did not take long before opportunities to make money on this were identified, especially as the application and payment by credit card must be made online. A similar type of fraud has been observed in relation to Green Card application scams in the past. McAfee’s research has shown, that both types of fraud are related and it is likely, that the ESTA fee scam is run by the same organizations as the Green Card scammers.
McAfee has noticed, that most search results for ‘ESTA’ or ‘ESTA form’ or ‘ESTA online registration’, lead to fraudulent web sites, especially if the search terms are run in non-English languages. Even worse – most sponsored ads are leading to fraudulent web sites, too.