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Florida Guide > Travelling

Beware of ESTA Scams

Some people make a career from preying on the unsuspecting public by trying to make a profit out of their innocence and tricking them into departing with their hard earned cash.

The new USA ESTA entry system is no different and has been the subject of recent scams.

As from January 12th 2009, all nationals and citizens eligible to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must obtain authorisation prior to traveling to the USA by completing an online application.

Authorisation is compulsory and must be obtained through the ’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization’ (ESTA), a free Internet application administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the official US government web site.

At the moment, the US Department of Homeland Security make no charges at all for for completion of an ESTA application.

However, there are some online third parties popping up on the wonderful world wide web establishing websites offering ’ assistance’ with the completion of the online ESTA Application for a fee, despite it being completely free of charge.

One such company hails itself as " A United States Service Provider specializing in the new Travel Authorization requirement" . Another calls itself " An Independent US Travel Authorization Service Provider" .

Needless to say none of these companies or websites are endorsed by, associated with or affiliated in anyway with the US Government.

The confusion arises from the fact that the official website is currently not that user-friendly and not easy to find from the homepage, which results in travellers doing a web search using the term ESTA.

The sites have very cleverly built, professional and official looking website, even down to a small round seal placed in the same place as the official website.

For a charge of $49. 95 you can download a ’ help guide’ that will tell you how to submit your application. The help guide on the official ESTA site is perfectly adequate, is available in 16 languages and includes an extensive question’ s and answer’ s section. The official source provides more than enough information to travellers to easily guide them through the process and covers everything an applicant could possibly need to know.

For a staggering $249. 95 ’ Processing Fee’ you can have a ’ Travel Specialist’ complete the online application for you. This is totally unnecessary and is purely preying on the confusion of travellers.

Another company is undercutting the above services by offering their " Travel Authorization Application Guide" for a bargain rate of $42.

If you have plenty of money to spare and don’ t mind lashing out on unnecessary luxuries then by all means pay for this service. If on the other-hand you have fifteen minutes to spare and don’ t like being ripped off, then stick to the official US government site and fill your own form in for free. The online application is extremely easy to complete and is perfectly self explanatory.

We aim to provide accurate and useful information, but if you feel anything provided here is not accurate or out of date, please email us with the address of the page concerned and any comments so we can amend as necessary.

Page added on: 2 January 2009
Viewed 4637 times since 2 January 2009.

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