A new report by the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Inspector General says organized fraud rings masquerading as travel agencies have taken control of the Diversity Visa program in Ukraine, Voice of America informs.

The report, released Friday, outlines a pervasive and sophisticated fraud scheme affecting the U.S. visa lottery program as well as the intimidation and extortion of Ukrainian citizens.

The United States awards 55.000 Diversity Visas annually to the citizens of countries with historically low immigration rates to the U.S. They are granted through a random lottery system that does not take into account the applicants’ family relations, professional or personal background.

The fraud rings "buy, steal, or obtain from public sources personal information about Ukrainian citizens," the report says. 

The OIG does not identify which groups are carrying out the fraud, but says they have a vast impact. The U.S. embassy in Kyiv estimates the groups are entering the names of as much as 80 percent of the population of western Ukraine into the online visa program, and continuing to enter them year after year. This happens often without the citizens’ permission or knowledge, preventing them from entering the visa lottery on their own because the computer system deletes duplicate applications.

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