A very official looking email telling recipients they won a green card through a lottery is being spread.
People in St. Louis tell News 4 they are receiving this email that says it comes from the Department of State National Visa Center and is asking for recipients to send a photocopy of their international passport.
It was an unexpected email for Michele Chapel to receive, who had a green card and lived in St. Louis for more than 40 years.
Chapel is originally from Canada and renewed her visa in 2016, so she was suspicious about the email, but said it was hard to tell if it was a scam or not.
"It looked pretty official," said Chapel, "The links are very, very similar to the forms you would fill out for a visa or an immigrant application."
What makes the email scam so believable is that this green card lottery is something that actually exists. It's called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Immigration attorney Jim Hacking says it allows immigrants in smaller countries to apply for a green card with no strings attached. People are chosen in a lottery to get a green card to the United States.
"It's really to expand who we let into the country, to increase the diversity in the United States," said Hacking.
Hacking says the most obvious sign the email is a scam is the sender's address. This email is being sent from email@example.com.
"Anytime you see an email from the Diversity Visa program it's going to say DVlottery@state.gov, so on its face we know that it's fake," said Hacking.
He clarified that all state government emails will end with a ".gov" address.
What may be the most worrisome request in the email is asking for photocopies of the recipient's passport.
"That's a lot of information to be out there in the hands of anybody that is not part of the state department," said Chapel.
Hacking says real green card lottery winners will have to pay some fees, but not the amounts this email is asking for.
"The fee amounts are wrong and they're inflated from what they actually are," said Hacking. Both Hacking and Chapel feel people are especially susceptible to a scam like this right now with some much recent change surrounding immigration rules.
"This just really set off all kinds of alarms," said Chapel.
Nationally, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC also provides more warning signs on their website to identify scamming emails.
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