When the US began charging applicants for esta application in 2010, several sites under different companies sprouted around the world under the name of esta. All of which rips off applications by asking them to pay up to ten times larger than the original fee for the authorization, and worst, stealing their information. To avoid getting scammed in your esta application, here are specific points you need to remember:
Apply through the Official ESTA Website
The best way to avoid paying unnecessary charges and falling victim to other fraudulent activities is by registering only through the official ESTA website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. Other sites that end .esta, .org, .com, .us, or any other, are not legitimate and are not operated by the United States government. Keep in mind that all of the US official websites end with the domain extension .gov.
Be Mindful of the Total Fee
The official ESTA website only charges applicants with a total fee of $14.00. This charge consists of two parts: $4.00 for processing the application and the remaining $10.00 for the authorization fee which will only be charged if your application gets approved. If your esta application is refused, you will only have to pay for the $4.00 application fee.
If in any case, you are prompted to pay more than the said amount, then you’re not at the official Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. CBP would not be responsible for any extra fees that may be incurred by your PayPal or your bank for the transaction.
Spot Scam Websites
It may be hard to distinguish fraudulent websites because the majority of them have created sites closely resembling the official ESTA website. Innocent applicants easily get deceived and fall prey.
If you happen to apply through one of these illegitimate sites, you will end by forking out higher fees. Sadly, these websites don’t actually process your esta application, and your money goes straight to waste. More often, they will provide you a document or a certificate after your register. However, if you check it with CBP, your application doesn’t exist.
Another strong reason why you need to be careful with these websites is that you can put your personal data at risk. You can unwarily divulge your travel documents and bank details with them. They would also know the specific dates when you will leave your home, which can also jeopardize your property.
As an applicant, make sure always to check and do ample research first before proceeding with any application. Be always inquisitive and alert to avoid any fraudulent activity affect you.