Transportation & Logistics

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Avoiding the Global Entry Scam Targeting Travelers

12 Mar, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Who doesn’t love the Global Entry program? The frequent traveler’s fast(er) lane through TSA is a favorite among sports traveling families and industry members, and has been for several years now.

Unfortunately, a new scam tied to the program has been making the rounds as as the demand for Global Entry has increased (two years ago, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) announced it had surpassed 5 million members – and the number has only grown since then).

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the average person will initially do a web search to find out how to apply for Global Entry. When he or she does so, the official CBP.gov website appears. But also listed – and usually above the CBP listing – is another website, likely an ad, that has been designed to look almost identical to the government’s link.

If a person should click on that link, they are taken to the site of a third-party company that offers to do all of the paperwork. The user is asked to fill out a form with all personal information, including full name, passport number and home address. Then, the person is prompted to pay $100 (the amount the government charges) plus another fee for the third-party service.

“In reality,” notes the BBB, “scammers have tricked you into paying extra money to complete the form on the official government website. Also, they now have access to your personal information and credit card details.”

The worst part: None of these companies are CBP-approved.

The Points Guy, a travel-specific website, notes the scam has been around for a while, adding, “In April of 2019, C Boarding Group did a bit of sleuthing and discovered that the listed address for one of these so-called “expediting agencies” actually went to a shady-looking warehouse in Houston, according to Google Maps.”

“There is only one Trusted Traveler Programs website,” a CBP spokesperson told The Points Guy. “Third-party companies that charge fees to process Trusted Traveler Program applications are not endorsed by, associated with or affiliated in any way with U.S. Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. government.”

So how can you help your participants with this? Travel event owners can put a note on their registration website, including a link to CBP, adding, “In case you haven’t gotten around to applying for Global Entry in order to expedite your airport experience, here is the official link to use.”

The BBB recommends authenticating any site before paying money through it:

Visit the official website first. When applying for government services, first visit the official website and read up on the application process. You will likely find there is no need for a third-party service .

Read the fine print. If you do decide to use a third-party service for an application process, read the fine print carefully. Scammers often create websites that appear to offer additional services but in reality, they simply charge consumers for free information or for services they could easily do themselves.

Make sure a business is legitimate. Look up the business you are planning to use on org before you make a payment or share your personal information. There, you can find the business rating, reviews, and any complaints.

If you (or someone in your organization) has provided information to a scam website, thinking it was the government’s, take steps now to make things better. The following are provided by The Points Guy:

1. Report your credit card as stolen: Block any subsequent transactions and request a new card with different numbers. (If you have a credit card with a “pause button“, this is a good time to use that feature.)

2. Lock down your credit file: Secure your credit file with all three major consumer credit bureaus until your card has been reissued. (Note that a credit lock is not the same thing as a credit freeze, which takes longer to lift than a temporary lock.)

3. Sign up for online notifications: Subscribe to text or e-mail alerts so you’re warned each time your credit card is used for a transaction. Monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity, and immediately report anything out of the ordinary. And if your home address has been compromised, a good security system will help give you peace of mind, especially if you go with a system that syncs with your phone or sends digital alerts.

4. Monitor your email: If your e-mail address was compromised, stay alert for various forms of phishing emails, and avoid clicking any suspicious links.

5. Report the scam: After you’ve taken steps to secure and monitor your personal and financial information, report the fraudulent company to the BBB ScamTracker website and to the FTC’s dedicated identity theft website.

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