Don’t get caught out: What you need to know about tourist visa scams

Jun 29, 2019
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Australian passport holders can enter 161 countries without needing a visa, but some popular destinations do require one. Source: Getty

There are many joys of travelling overseas, from the food and culture to the sights and people, but if there’s one thing that can quickly ruin a good holiday, it’s being scammed.

While there are many different travel scams out there, forgery around tourist visas has been on the rise in recent years.

Tourist visas are a common requirement for many countries, but trying to work out whether or not you need a visa for a certain country can be, at times, overwhelming, and unfortunately scam artists are aware of this fact.

A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told Travel at 60 visa scams can be quite sophisticated and hard to recognise.

“Australian travellers of all ages and backgrounds can be scammed into purchasing visas for travel which are either unnecessary, unlawful or overpriced,” the spokesperson said.

Australian passport holders can enter 161 countries without needing a visa, but some popular destinations do require one. So Angus Kidman, tech expert at Finder, has shared his top tips with Travel at 60 on how to avoid getting tricked. 

How to spot a visa scam

Scams come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to know what to look out for.

Kidman says there are a number of third parties who claim to handle your visa application on your behalf, but turn out to be nothing more than an elaborate scam. These third parties charge a high fee for submitting your visa application, so it’s best to apply directly to the relevant consulate or embassy. 

Signs of a scam also include being asked to pay in cash, or with iTunes cards, to set up an ABN or being asked for your tax file number.

“If you’re asked for any of these, walk away,” Kidman says.

So how can you protect yourself?

First things first, be sure to check with the relevant consulate or embassy of the country you intend to visit to determine if a visa is required. The most credible way to find this information is to contact an official representative of the country. These can be located on Australia’s Smartraveller website.

When applying for a visa, you can apply online or you can submit the appropriate documentation in person at the country’s embassy or consulate. However, it’s important to note scammers can easily copy legitimate websites or create fake businesses.

Travellers who need help applying for a travel visa should work with a trusted travel agent.

“We recommend Australian travellers only apply for visas through reputable organisations, travel agents or through a referral from the relevant embassy or consulate of the country they intend to visit,” the DFAT spokesperson adds. 

We recently asked the Travel at 60 community what precautions they take when applying for travel visas.

Janice Brehaut says she usually applies online, adding she’s “very careful” to apply directly to the relevant consulate of the country she intends to visit.

However, Claire Vloedmans says she prefers to apply in person at the country’s embassy or consulate.

Have you applied for a travel visa before? Have you ever been the victim of a travel scammed?

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