Scammers target those seeking to immigrate to the United States

The diversity lottery scam finally has reached Costa Rica. Some emails that originated in Thailand have shown up in local inboxes.

The scam emails purport to be from the U.S. Department of State and announce that the recipient, whoever he or she may be, has won one of 225 diversity visas.

The diversity lottery is real, and each year the United States awards 50,000 immigrant visas to those who have applied online. The idea is to generate immigration for under-represented national groups.

The scammers, however, are just out for the money. The scam tells the alleged winner that they have to remit $890 for a single visa or $1,420 for a couple via Moneygram or via a bank transfer.

The real U.S. government, the one in Washington, D.C. and not in Thailand, says this through its Bureau of Consular Affairs:

While diversity visa applicants may receive an email from the U.S. government reminding them to check their status online . . . they will not receive a notification letter or email informing them that they are a successful entrant. Applicants can only find out if they were selected to continue with processing by checking their status online at

Fees for the application process are paid to the U.S. Embassy or consulate cashier at the time of a scheduled appointment. The U.S. government will never ask you to send payment in advance by check, money order, or wire transfer.

The origin in Thailand was made clear because the telephone number that applicants are supposed to call by June 15 is there, according to the listed country code. In addition, the email shows that it came from a zone that is seven hours ahead of Greenwich.

Many Costa Ricans apply for a diversity visa each year, and some may be taken in by this scam.

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