Beware of Green Card fraud, US embassy warns

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ASK THE CONSUL
Question: I received an email about winning the United States Green Card lottery. When will I be informed of my interview date?
Answer: I am so glad that you asked this question. Winners of the Green Card lottery, known officially as the Diversity Visa lottery, are never sent email notifications, therefore the email you received is fake and you should do nothing more than delete it.

Recently, the US Embassy in Nairobi has received numerous inquiries about this and other “Green Card scams”. In most of these scams, Kenyans receive emails informing them that they have won the US Green Card lottery and that they should fill out forms and send money for a “processing fee,” usually directing payment to a Western Union account. Some of these emails look very realistic and sadly, many Kenyans have been fooled into paying hundreds of dollars to these fraudsters.

These phony emails have originated from email addresses such as: [email protected]; us. [email protected]; and [email protected] The fraudsters work hard to make their email addresses and documents look convincing.

The US government does not notify lottery winners by email. Those who entered the 2011 Diversity Visa program have already received a paper letter informing them that they are eligible for an interview for a Diversity Visa. Entrants can also check if they have won at www.dvlottery.state.gov until June 30, 2011.

Those who entered the 2012 Diversity Visa program will not receive direct notification; they will be given a user name and password to check for themselves from May 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012 at www.dvlottery.state.gov. Also, it should be noted that emails originating from a U.S. government agency will end with the domain name “gov”. In other words, the last three letters of the email address should be “gov”. Emails with “.com” domain names do not come from the U.S. government.

Another important point to remember is that there is no charge to enter the Diversity Visa lottery. If you win the lottery and pursue a visa application, you will be asked to pay a fee at the US Embassy on the day of your interview. You should not pay anyone in advance. The American Embassy urges Kenyans to simply delete email messages claiming that you won the Green Card lottery and instructing you to send money.

I would also like to warn you about other Green Card scams. Each year millions of individuals submit lottery entries for a chance to win an interview for one of the 55,000 immigrant visas available to the Diversity Visa (DV) program.

Unfortunately, many of the entries are submitted by third parties trying to extort money from unsuspecting people and such cases are refused a visa by the embassy due to fraud. Sometimes the entries are made by facilitators who enter their own contact information and hold winning entries “hostage”, if you will, demanding fees or compelling a sham marriage in order to pay off this new “debt”. In other instances, entries are made by people with access to the personal information of individuals in large groups, such as students, and then the winning entry information is held pending payment.

If you are approached by someone trying to facilitate a diversity visa in exchange for money, please send an email describing the encounter to [email protected]

I hope that this explanation prevents you and other Kenyans from falling victim to these ploys.

“Ask the Consul” is a monthly column. Do you have a question for the consul? Use this email address to submit your questions for next month’s “Ask The Consul:” [email protected]

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