Beware of ESTA Third Party Service Providers!

Remember I mentioned having to apply for ESTA before our NYC trip???

Turns out people can get tricked into paying more than they should for the application fees!!!!!!!

Ok ok here's the background story: After another couple informed us that we had to apply for ESTA before travelling to the US, we Googled for "ESTA Application" and clicked on this link. We completed the form and paid the requisite fees which amounted to USD28.00 (USD14.00 x 2 pax) for the both of us. 

A few days before this, Saliheen asked his Friend A whether she applied for ESTA fees before her US holiday and she said oh yes, the fees are quite expensive, and that it will come up to "about two hundred dollars for 2 pax." We didn't think much of this, and didn't even remember her comment until yesterday night, when another one of his friends, Friend B, asked us whether we paid "USD87 each for our ESTA application"

Friend B sent us a screenshot of the confirmation email he received after making his payment:


He submitted his application via this link. Which we suspected was a third-party based website!!!

Wtf funfair ke ape categorize the actual fee as "$14 government fee" lepas tu selamba bomba je campak masuk "$73.00 processing fee"?!?! Saliheen and I agreed his friend probably Googled for "ESTA Application" like us but someway or another, clicked on another link which directed him to this third-party based website. Which charges an additional $73.00 as processing fee wtf

Here is a screenshot of what happens when you Google for "ESTA Application" - the green tick indicates the website Saliheen and I used to apply for ESTA at USD14.00 per pax, and the red cross indicates the website his friend used to apply for ESTA but got charged USD87.00 per pax:


I think this issue has been so prevalent that the official US Customs and Border Protection website even has an answer for it under their FAQ here haha. I really tak puas hati after confirming this that I started reading through the third-party based website and saw this in fine print at the bottom of their site:


"Legal Disclaimer: USAvisaonline.com is not affiliated with the U.S.A Government. It is operated by a private company with expert knowledge in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization"

Darah gua naaaaaaaaaiiiiikkkkk siak baca itu disclaimer!!!!! 

Simi "expert knowledge in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization"????? Step mana peh rocket science je itu application form sampai kena ada expert knowledge segala. It is seriously *just* a form that you fill up with your personal particulars and travel details lor!!! Apa yang susah sangat??? Why should anyone pay freaking USD73.00 for your "expert knowledge"??? Expert knowledge in what??? FILING UP FORMS?????

So so peeved that these kind of things are allowed to exist online and rip off unsuspecting travellers. Also, because of this, Saliheen and I realized that this is probably the reason why his Friend A told him the fees would amount to a few hundred dollars. She probably got ripped off the same way too!!!!!

Anyway, in the end Friend B emailed those suckers to say he wanted to cancel the application and they quickly replied him to say the cancellation was approved and his credit card won't be charged. Nasib baik siak. I think they don't want to kick up a fuss about cancellation requests because (1) they don't want any trouble or attention given to their scheme and (2) they rip off from so many other unsuspecting applicants sampai berlipat ganda anyway so it doesn't matter if 1 or 2 persons discover their ruse and walks away >:(

Posting this up to share the knowledge! So people who are travelling to the US and applying for ESTA can avoid giving away USD73.00 to third-party based websites for their "expert knowledge". Suka hati nenek dia je nak charge processing fee for "expert knowledge". Setakat fill up form nenek aku pun tau!!!!!


SEE? It only costs USD14.00 per pax for the ESTA application fee k. President Obama say one k.

There are various sites warning travellers of this scheme and you can read them here, here, here, here and here.

You can also read the notice by Embassy of Singapore (in Beijing) here, information on the Visa Waiver Program on the US Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website here and notice by Embassy of United States (in Singapore) here for reassurance. FAQ on ESTA can be found on the official US Customs and Border Protection website, which is here.
To apply for ESTA via the official website, CLICK HERE AND ONLY HERE.

16 comments

  1. Hahahhah President Obama say one! But thanks for sharing babe. Kirakan macam public service announcement gitu.. ;)

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    1. You're welcome :D I'd be so pissed seh if I paid that much money for something that's supposed to cost wayyyyy lower. So must share, hopefully others don't kena!

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    2. Almost got caught but got suspicious when asked to pay in British Pounds. Saw the not affiliated at bottom of application and filled out the proper form for $US14

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  2. Replies
    1. Did you post another comment, babe? Because I can only see this one!

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  3. Very interesting to read of your experiences and sad that your friends were caught out by this.

    I've been aware of this ESTA scam (as I call it on my site) for a long time now since I often apply for ESTA as I am a frequent visitor to the US.

    The application process takes 5-10 minutes online and is not particularly demanding. I admit that more recently they ask for more information such as details on your parents etc. When you think about it all the information you complete yourself is something you'd have to pass onto the visa processing company. So you are paying them when you provide the information anyway! - crazy.

    I think we do right to continue to promote this important message. Sadly the US authorities or our national authorities don't see it as a priority and something to clamp down upon. As a result we need to use our experiences and knowledge to help educate others.

    Safe travels.

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    1. Thank you for posting about the ESTA scam! Found your site when I Googled for more info, your post really helped to explain the situation and clear up my doubts.

      That's true, I thought the form was quite detailed but it took me only 10 minutes to complete and submit the ESTA form. I don't see why I should pay USD73 more for someone else to complete the form for me when I am fully capable of understanding and submitting the form myself.

      Great to know that there are others promoting this message! Please continue with your good work. Hopefully the US authorities will see this as a point of concern someday so fellow travelers won't find themselves scammed in such a way.

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  4. If you look one step further, one would realise using unofficial third party companies might set them up for stolen identities or stolen credit information. How scary does that sound? (Btw U should totally check out CSI Cyber if you've not)

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    1. Yes correct! I think one or two of the articles I've linked up to mentioned online security breaches (Thanks! Will check out CSI Cyber!)

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  5. Hi I just applied for esta via this site :((( can I check it your friend eventually got his esta approved via the official site ? I jus emailed usavisaonline to have my application cancelled but I'm worried that my application via the official site will have issues. Let me know!

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    1. Hello dear, so sorry to hear you submitted your application to the wrong party! :(

      My friend didn't have any issues with his application because he received confirmation of cancellation from the third party-based website first before applying through the official website!

      Hopefully, the third party website hasn't done any action/application on your behalf and can refund you soon... As long as they haven't submitted anything, I think there shouldn't be any problems with your application with the official authorities. Let's hope for the best!

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  6. My parents submitted the application through this third-party website. I was able to cancel the order by sending and e-mail. They responded within the hour. The order had been made the day before. My parents had not receive the ESTA at the time we requested the cancellation. We do not know whether they actually processed their ESTA. At the same time we were dealing with this cancellation they applied for ESTA at the legitimate website and they received the approval right away. They have not travel yet. We hope no problems arise at the port of entry.

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    1. As long as you've applied for ESTA on the legitimate website and received confirmation, there shouldn't be any problem!

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  7. I also accidentally (and stupidly) applied for ESTA via a third-party website, and I haven't gotten any confirmation email or some sort whatsoever from the website. I take it from your article that as long as my application is canceled with the unofficial website, my application via official website will be fine? (at least that's what happened to your friend). I'm kinda short on time and panicking at the moment aduhhhh

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    1. Quickly send them an email to ask for cancellation and refund! And yes, once you calcel with the unofficial website, your application via the official website should be fine - this happened to my husband's friend and he managed to do the submission without any hiccups.

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  8. Ashamed to say I fell for this! T-T

    Was in too much of a hurry (need ESTA for work trip) and only realized something was off AFTER paying. Emailed and they've promised to cancel the transaction but....

    I'm now more worried about identity theft. So much personal info was involved!

    Any advice anyone???

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