Minhaj Aman

Research-Lead, Dismislab
Scammers exploit US DV lottery hopes for Bangladeshis through job sites, groups and pages
This article is more than 1 year old

Scammers exploit US DV lottery hopes for Bangladeshis through job sites, groups and pages

Minhaj Aman

Research-Lead, Dismislab

News of the United States diversity visa or DV lottery application for Bangladeshis has spread on various online platforms such as Facebook and YouTube in recent times. However, Bangladesh was removed from the DV list in 2012 due to the quota being filled, as per the US Embassy website in Dhaka. Therefore, Bangladeshis no longer have the opportunity to obtain this particular visa.

Dismislab’s open-source investigation revealed that these DV Lottery ads or posts originated from a network of websites, Facebook pages, and groups that mainly advertise job-related facts and postings. Scammers spread false information or clickbait posts by opening fake pages using the names of government organizations or established job sites. The study analyzed 10 websites, 9 Facebook pages, 20 groups, and 23 individual profiles. It was discovered that 8 of these websites are registered in Jessore, while most of the group admins and post creators are from the same district as well.

  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery

More than 100 posts and comments from various profiles were analyzed in the study. Call for application posts for the DV Lottery were published on certain websites and then shared on different pages. Certain groups of individuals posted them in different Facebook groups from profiles opened under their own name or anonymously. Some of them even shared website links as comments under other posts. These links mainly lead to a webpage containing information about the DV Lottery, and most websites display between two and eight advertisements (mainly Google Ads) on those web pages.

According to experts, this entire fiasco is designed to increase traffic or clicks on those websites, earning them profits from advertising. Even tech platforms like Google profit from this misleading campaign.

Misleading posts and ads on websites

Fake campaigns for the DV Lottery are being conducted in two ways on websites. Firstly, by displaying a notice with application details on a web page; secondly, through ads that redirect viewers to the DV notice page when clicked. These promotions are displayed in various job-related posts.

“Applications are now open from Bangladesh for American DV Lottery 2022/23 for Bangladeshis aged 18-40! Fill out the application form yourself at home. To apply, click on ‘DV Apply Now’ below” – a specific search for this particular text on Google yields more than 2,500 results. The sites put an advertisement or promotional link in the exact same language in different job notices, which is why the search results are so high.

As of the first week of January, 9 out of 10 surveyed websites had such ads. Among them, Top Circular BD posted the most (1170 times), followed by scholarshipcircular.com (271 times). Jobspagal.com put up the exact same advertisement as an image. The ads make it seem like the DV Lottery door has opened again for Bangladesh, but that is not the case.

Clicking on the text takes users to a specific webpage for the DV application. It contains lengthy application procedure details in English. At the bottom of the page, there is a list of countries that are not eligible for DV, including Bangladesh. However, two sites have moved Bangladesh from the top of the list of ineligible countries to the very bottom.

Further down, there is another explanation in English, which summarizes as – Bangladesh is ineligible, but you can apply if one of your spouses or parents is a citizen of a country considered eligible for application, and you “claim” citizenship of that country. Such explanations are found in almost every site seemingly operating for the DV lottery.

This means that the Facebook posts and website advertisements claimed that the call for the application has started from Bangladesh, but at the very end of the main page, it says that Bangladeshis are not eligible to apply. This has left many users confused. For example, a DV notice on a site called Resultmama had 60 comments where site viewers expressed interest in DV applications and moving to the US.

Network of fake pages and clickbait sites

On December 14, a Facebook page named the Directorate Of Primary Education published a post on  DV Lottery that read, “American DV Lottery 2024 ❐ If you are from Bangladesh (18-40), apply from mobile with photo, NID number.”

Attached to the post was an image of an application form, but it had nothing to do with the US DV program.

Upon verification, it was seen that the photo is basically an application form for Bangladeshi Machine Readable Passport, which can be downloaded for free from the Passport Directorate website. In the comment section of this post, users were asking questions like “How to apply”, “How much is the charge”, “Can a 47-year-old person apply”, etc.

The page with about 93,000 followers may look like it is the official Facebook handle of Directorate of Primary Education of Bangladesh. However, that is not the case. The fake page was opened in 2018 by duplicating the name of the official Facebook page of the government agency. The official website of the department has a link to its original Facebook page. The fake page has more followers than the original Facebook handle. In the review section of the fake page, some informed users have even put out warnings that “this page gives fake news.”

DV Lottery news from the ‘Directorate of Primary Education’ page has been posted at least 62 times in the last one year. A link to the website named topcircularbd.com is in the comment section of each. It says that applications for the DV lottery can be found from this link. By clicking on the page, there are more links for DV Lottery details and applications. But whatever link is clicked on, it redirects to the same DV Lottery webpage. In this way, users are made to click on the same page again and again.

The research found Facebook page and Facebook group called ‘Top Circular BD’ and another page called ‘Job circular-নিয়োগ বিজ্ঞপ্তি’. They are interconnected and share links to the same website from each of them. Both pages have the same web address and email address in the description. The page is also named in the admin and moderator list of the Facebook group.

More networks, same scheme and the Jessore connection

Analyzing domain registration data, it was seen that 8 out of 10 sites are registered to Jessore addresses. For example, the website topcircularbd.com is registered at an address in Newtown, Jessore. The name under which the website is registered is also found in the admin list of its Facebook group. The investigation found 7 more Facebook profiles that were posting fake DV Lottery links of Top Circular BD in multiple groups. Out of these profiles, 4 have Jessore as their address.

In the admin list of the topcircularbd.com group, two persons were found who run another site called jobnotice24.com. Old advertisements of DV Lottery are also found on this site and it is registered at Karbala Road in Jessore.

Jobpagal.com is at the center of another network that spreads similar posts related to DV Lottery. This site’s DV Lottery post was originally spread from a Facebook page called bdjobs.com. They have been posting this link at various times since August last year and are advertising applications for ‘DV Lottery-2024’. This page actually does not belong to the popular job search platform bdjobs.com. The fake page has been opened by duplicating their name. The person who registered the Jobpagal.com website, was also located in Kazipara, Jessore.

Two more sites namely jobnews24hours.com and bdlatestupdate.com have been registered at the same address. DV lottery notification is also available here. Both these sites are registered under the name of the same person. The notices of these two websites are often posted in a Facebook group named ‘Bd Job Circular – নিয়োগ বিজ্ঞপ্তি’ which has around 3.4 million members. The group contains the name of the website registrant in the admin panel.

Another website, scholarshipcircular.com, which published misleading circulars of DV Lottery, was registered under the name of a moderator of ‘BD Job Circular’ group. According to the registration information, this person’s address is also in Jessore. The facebook group linked to the website is named Update Job News (247). The sole admin of that group is from the same district as well.

The DV Lottery application notice of scholarshipcircularbd.com  has been posted at least 44 times in two Facebook groups in the last one year. The two groups are ‘Weekly Job News (সাপ্তাহিক চাকরির খবর)’ and ‘bdjobs‘ which have about half million and 0.2 million members respectively. At least 4 admins of these two groups have Jessore as their Facebook profile address.

Similarly, DV lottery advertisements are displayed on two websites named updatejobcircular.com and bdallresults.com. Their registered address is also in the same district.

Where clickbait and advertisement are the main goals

Of the 10 websites examined separately, at least 7 of them have 2 to 8 online advertisements on the DV Lottery page alone and most of which are from Google Adsense. 9 websites have taken hosting services from a company named Boss Host BD. The sites look almost the same and their designs are built on the same template.

However, the websites are not asking for money from anyone in the name of DV Lottery application. The study also found no evidence of fraudulent activities. These sites encourage readers to click on the site with job advertisements and misleading posts. This is how they earn.

Each of these 10 sites has Google Adsense approval. It cannot be said precisely how much they earn. However, according to data from SimilarWeb, a well-known website research site, 5 of them receive between 20,000 and 50,000 pageviews per month.

  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery
  • DV Lottery

In this regard, AKM Fahim Mashroor, co-founder and CEO of bdJobs.com told DismisLab, “Many people do this clickbait business by opening online portals. Their purpose is to get the reader to click on their page or portal to earn money. For this, there are various gimmicks, through which an attempt is made to increase traffic, i.e. to attract readers or viewers. Ads are placed on those contents, Google ad or various ad networks pay them for clicking on that ad; That is their business.”

“Those who have good content will survive at the end of the day. Those who don’t have content may get some money from various sources. But they don’t last long,” he added. Fahim Mashroor also advised readers to refrain from clicking any ad whenever they see it.

According to him, the readers should be aware of the sites from which they are obtaining information.

Fake news Remains despite Being Fact-checked

FactWatch, Rumor Scanner and Boom Bangladesh have published multiple fact-check reports following the spread of fake news about DV applications for Bangladeshis. The Daily Ajker Patrika also published a report on distinguishing such fake application sites. However, there are still many misleading notifications and advertisements of DV applications on Facebook.

The DV program was closed for Bangladeshis in 2012. Referring to this information on its website, the US Embassy in Dhaka also urged everyone not to be deceived by any advertisement in the name of DV program.

When contacted on the issue of fake DV lottery, the US Embassy in Dhaka responded to DismisLab, saying, “The Embassy regularly monitors reports of fraudulent facilitators, e-mails, letters, websites, phone calls, SMS, and print advertisements offering visa services.  None of these people are associated with the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh nor does the Embassy endorse, certify, or approve of any of these services. Don’t be a victim of fraud!”

The US Embassy has also filed a case against a visa consulting firm in Bangladesh that stole millions in the name of the fake DV lottery draw in April this year. The company’s Android app is still available on the Google Play Store and its website is also active. A Facebook page opened last September posted a video advertisement of DV Lottery promoting the same organization.