The European Union has refuted claims that a document has been issued warning travellers from over 60 Schengen visa-free countries to be careful of fraudulent websites that pretend to be the official European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website or offer “intermediary services”.
Last week, British media have reported that the EU Commission has issued a “guidance” warning of scammers who offer travellers services to obtain an ETIAS, which travel authorization requirement is set to become effective in November 2023.
According to the reporting, the document warns of “attempts to mislead applicants into believing that their site is the official channel for submitting an ETIAS application”.
“This may give the false impression that the additional fee charged by the commercial intermediary is a mandatory part of the application process,” the media had reported, that the guidance allegedly said.
However, contacted by SchengenVisaInfo.com, a press officer of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, had denied that such a document has ever been issued.
“I can confirm that we have not issued any guidance,” the press officer said.
In spite of the EU Commission not issuing any warning to travellers in this regard, according to Besart Bajrami, founder of SchengenVisaInfo.com, the threat from these scammers is real, and many travellers could fall for them, as the official launch of the ETIAS approaches.
Explaining how these scammers work, Bajrami says that they are getting ready to use the same methods they use for the United States Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA). According to him, the scammers appear as if they are the official website for ESTA, and ask travellers to pay an amount several times higher than the actual ESTA application amount.
“They submit to travellers a form with the data they need to fill in, and then the same data is placed by them on the official ESTA website. Then travellers pay a fee that is three or four times higher than the normal ESTA fee, which is $21,” Bajrami says.
In order to prevent these websites from continuing to scam visa-free travellers to the US, the Customs and Border Protection agency has warned a few times now. It is expected that the EU should do the same thing and have a strategy to prevent travellers from being scammed.
Travellers from more than 60 world countries will have to apply for an ETIAS less than a year from now in order to be able to enter any of the 26 Schengen Area countries for tourism and business purposes.
The application procedures will have to be completed online through a website of the EU, which is not yet available, but the EU has confirmed it will be under the “Europa.eu” domain. A fee of only €7 will be required per application, and once the travel authorization is issued, it will be valid for a period of two years. The following times a traveller applies, the ETIAS will be issued for a longer period of time.