The surge in travel has opened the floodgates for not just globe-trotting travelers but also for a shadowy underbelly of scam artists. As tourists indulge their wanderlust through what is being termed as ‘revenge travel’ after the pandemic, many find themselves at the mercy of fraudsters preying on the increased demand for visa appointments.
It is essential to be aware of common scenarios to protect yourself from falling victim to fraudsters who deceive unsuspecting visa applicants into paying money for booking visa appointments. While some countries accept applications directly, others route their application procedures through organizations like VFS Global which is the world’s largest technology services specialists for governments and diplomatic missions. As the holiday season approaches, VFS Global suggests keeping the following information in mind when applying for visa appointments:
Is there a fee to book visa appointments?
VFS Global does not charge any payment for scheduling visa appointments for countries they serve. Appointments are free and available only at www.vfsglobal.com. However, select countries may charge a nominal service fee.
Where should one book visa appointments?
www.vfsglobal.com is the only official website to book visa appointments for the countries we serve.
Does VFS Global play any role in determining which applicants receive visas?
All decisions pertaining to visa issuance, validity, and the processing timelines are made by the respective embassies or consulates. VFS Global only handles the administrative and non-judgemental aspects of the visa application process. We have no role or influence on the decision of your visa application. Even if someone is opting for value-added services, it does not influence quicker or positive visa decisions. So if someone claiming to be a VFS Global representative promises higher chances of success, they are most likely impostors.
Does VFS Global associate with third-party entities for visa facilitation?
No, we do not work in association with any third-party entity. Applicants should beware of impostors who claim to be associated with or pose as VFS Global.
If you suspect fraud, we encourage you to contact local police and/or competent authorities and also to keep us informed by reporting the incident at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does VFS Global offer immigration and job services?
No, VFS Global does not offer any immigration and job services. Applicants should be cautious of scammers offering spurious job or immigration opportunities for money.
In our experience, scammers pose as representatives of VFS Global and offer fake employment and immigration opportunities. They impersonate heads of key departments in legitimate companies and send fabricated offer letters and official-looking documentation using a fake email-id.
Often, they use email domains that are very similar to VFS Global’s – for example, they might use the domain name vfsglobal-helpline.com instead of vfshelpline.com.
Further, when the intended victim calls or checks the website to confirm the communication,they might even clone VFS Global’s website using masking software that makes it appear like the call has indeed come from an official VFS Global line.
Then, the scammer will ask customers to make an upfront payment and share personal information towards acceptance of the job or immigration opportunity, which sets them up to be victims of financial fraud or identity theft.
How do scammers use applicants’ desperation and anxieties surrounding the visa processing timelines to their advantage?
VFS Global urges applicants to apply for visas in advance to avoid last-minute surprises and to stay safe from scammers. We have found that some scammers are misusing the gap between the high demand and the limited supply of visas, and the time crunch of the application process to fleece applicants by offering them expedited visa appointments in exchange for money.
Visa appointments are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis only at www.vfsglobal.com. Beware of fraudulent entities trying to sell appointments independently or in the name of VFS Global.
In conclusion, what are some of the red flags that visa applicants should watch out for?
Here are some signs that you might be the victim of a fraud:
- You receive emails with job offers or immigration promises from fabricated email IDs via personal email accounts (gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc.)
- You receive a job offer from a company you have not applied to
- You are asked to make an advance payment to a personal bank account with the threat of visa application rejection or deportation, or loss of the job offer
- You receive offer letter or contract with a pixelated, out-of-proportion VFS Global logo
Lastly, VFS Global never asks visa applicants to share their personal information or make an upfront payment via any social media message, email, SMS, or call. If you have been asked to make payments to personal accounts to expedite your visa application process, you may be interacting with a scammer.
We urge applicants to guard against sharing personal details without confirming the authenticity of the requester. Only make payments through our official website (www.vfsglobal.com) or at our Visa Application Center.