THE BLOG

How to Avoid Getting Scammed When You Purchase an eVisa

03/11/2015 03:48 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2015

Comments under the recent article about my trip to Bahrain and Abu Dhabi alerted me that I had severely overpaid for my Bahrain eVisa. The $170 fee seemed expensive when I applied but I thought it was similarly priced to my recent Paraguay, Brazilian and Argentinian visas which charged $160 each. The expense seemed annoying but an unavoidable cost of traveling.

The commenters made it clear that I was hoodwinked. It seemed odd since I purchased it online from what I thought was the new Bahrain government eVisa site. It turns out that instead I procured it from a site that looked official but had no connection to the Bahrain government. As a result, I overpaid a whopping $93.

It was shocking to me that that I was swindled since I am an attorney and a consumer journalist. I overlooked warnings in my haste to quickly book my trip. These sites count on people being busy and rushing. Red flags were dismissed since I had no idea that this racket existed. Companies apparently, play on ignorance like mine. Now it is time to pull back the curtain so this doesn't happen to anyone else.

Investigate beyond the first Google listing.
I Googled "Bahrain visa" and automatically selected the first link thinking it was the Bahrain government. It wasn't but it is now. The site was deceptively designed to look authentic to lure me to select it, which I did.

Check for a .gov at the end of the domain name.
The site had a .org in its domain name. The legitimate site https://www.evisa.gov.bh has a .gov indicating it is the bona fide government site. It never occurred to me to check.

Look for a local contact phone number.
The phone number listed on the site was in Singapore. I thought it was odd that Bahrain would have a call center outside its country but I chalked it up to outsourcing. I should have delved deeper but again, I was unaware of this scheme.

Confirm the cost.
The site did not list the cost. It seemed peculiar but it wasn't as if there was an alternative option to paying it. The cost seemed high when it appeared on my credit card statement but it was comparable to recent visas in South America. The charge was listed as "professional services for a Turkish visa." The company confirmed the accuracy of the price and I attributed the location difference to an input error.

The company's goal was to manipulate me according to Card Services for Capital One whose card I used for the transaction. The company did not break any rules by not telling me the price in advance. The accountability fell on me. As a result, they could have charged me ANY price up to my credit limit since I gave no proof of an agreed price. Capital One can not automatically reverse the charge since it was my error.

Capital One did issue me a one-time permanent good will gesture credit. I was a long time customer and I suspect because they had tweeted my article earlier in the day that mentioned their card.

I was very lucky. I could have been charged an exorbitant amount that couldn't be reversed because I agreed to a visa without knowing the price. Next time I will verify the site, domain name and the cost prior to hitting the purchase key.