Schengen visa: beware of scammers

After the drastic reduction in the number of Schengen visas granted, a scam is growing every day. Not a week goes by without hearing about new victims, reports the newspaper ECHO.

After the drastic reduction in the number of visas granted to France, most visa applicants are turning to Spain. Taking advantage of the naivety of citizens ready to go through illegal channels to hope to obtain this travel document, networks of matchmakers, middlemen, touts and other scammers are rushing into the loophole.

Not a week goes by without hearing about victims whose numbers are increasing day by day. “Given the desire of citizens to get Schengen visa application appointments at BLS and TLS centers, the mercenaries have opened a shop and claim to sell slots nearby. They offer their services on social networks.

Potential customers contact them and scammers have established approaches to gaining their trust. They ask their reassured victims to pay their taxes by credit card. The victim communicates the details of her card to his interlocutor.

A moment later, the victim receives the payment validation SMS code from his bank, which he communicates to the scammer, and the payment transaction is validated. However, this is a payment transaction for a top-up of the scammer’s M-Wallet. The latter is not satisfied with a single operation, he tells the victim that the payment failed under the pretext of having entered the code incorrectly and they restart the operation a 2nd time, then a 3rd time “, reports Ismail Bellali, administrator delegate of the Interbank Electronic Payment Center (CMI).

Obviously the scammers have studied their subject well and know how to win the trust of their victims, especially since dates are rare, not taking the opportunity would mean that someone else would. A woman, in a hurry to get her and her husband an appointment for medical reasons, validated 5 times the debit of 2,000 DH from her bank account.

Faced with the proliferation of this type of scam, questions abound: how do these intermediaries manage to have appointments (appointments) when this operation requires providing various personal data, especially while traveling? How can appointments be made transferable?

The use of intermediaries for visa filing appointments has become almost widespread. It should be noted that BLS International Services Ltd has a monopoly on the service and several sources speak of concern for centralization, particularly for the center of Casablanca and the region which covers a large and overpopulated geographical area, especially Marrakech and Casablanca. For some, this would be one of the prime reasons for such scams.

The trick of intermediaries is to make appointments as soon as availability appears. They put this date up for sale to the highest bidder, through social media ads and other classifieds sites.

Since dates are rare, not taking the opportunity would mean, for people desperate for a date, that someone else would. However, to confirm the appointment, you have to pay 1,500 DH for some, 2,000 DH for others. Exorbitant prices, when you know you have to pay around 160 DH by the normal way. As for the amounts, these vary according to the intermediary’s appetite.

At first, they announce that they will send you the official payment link, but they send you a “fake” link, then they call you back to tell you it doesn’t work with your bank. Then they kindly offer to acquire the payment for you. And as soon as you give them your bank details, they’re done.

Modesto Kouame

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