[dehai-news] (Philadelphia Inquirer) Beware the bogus green-card-lottery e-mail

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Mon Mar 02 2009 - 09:58:58 EST

Posted on Sun, Mar. 1, 2009

Beware the bogus green-card-lottery e-mail

By Michael Matza

Inquirer Staff Writer
Overseas e-mail scams are so rife, there's probably one in your inbox right

In the latest ruse, hucksters masquerading as State Department officials are
using e-mails designed to look like notifications from the U.S. Green Card
Diversity Lottery Program in an attempt to extract up to $1,500 from
unsuspecting immigrants.

"Congratulations! You are among the lucky selected winners," reads a
shamrock-green pitch now being circulated. Digitally embossed with the
spread-eagle insignia of the State Department, it provides a correspondence
address in Thailand and says that the winners eventually will have to pay
fees of $970 per individual, or $1,490 per family, to "complete" the

The targets could include citizens of foreign countries seeking to immigrate
to the United States, as well as immigrants already here on temporary visas
who hope someday to get green cards that would allow legal, permanent

State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said the bogus e-mail was
precisely the sort of scam that "has been an ongoing problem" for the visa

Holladay said he "could not immediately quantify" how many people had been
taken in by the fraud.

On the department's Web site, a red-lettered warning is prominently
featured: "Some companies posing as the U.S. Government have sought money in
order to 'complete' lottery entry forms. There is no charge to download and
complete the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form. The Department of State
notifies successful Diversity Visa applicants by letter, and NOT by e-mail."

The authentic diversity program is an annual lottery administered by the
State Department in which 55,000 winners are randomly chosen by computer
from more than nine million applicants in eligible countries.

Actual winners of the 2009 lottery were notified with letters postmarked
between May and July last year.

The program's goal is to advance U.S. population diversity by encouraging
applications from countries with traditionally low rates of immigration to
this country. Among the nations that received the largest number of
diversity visas this year were Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Ukraine.

In the case of the bogus State Department e-mail, there are tip-offs that it
is fraudulent, even though it looks deceptively real:

**It uses the letterhead of the State Department's national visa center in
Portsmouth, N.H. Since 2000, the actual program has been administered
directly from the department's consular center in Williamsburg, Ky.

It has grammar, syntax and punctuation errors typically not found in an
authentic State Department letter.

The e-mail originates from a blind Yahoo address.

It is signed by a woman who identifies herself as "secretary general" of the
Kentucky Consular Center. While her name does not appear on the State
Department's employee roster, it does turn up on several Web sites devoted
to unmasking Internet scams.

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