Immigration NZ is taking legal action against dodgy websites that are ripping off tourists buying electronic visas.
The commercial websites charge up to 10 times the normal $35 for the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy and the $9-$12 for the NZ Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA).
INZ says it has identified about a dozen third party sites that charge inflated servicing fees but do process the visas.
But it has also sent cease and desist letters to a number of fraudulent sites that just take people's money. It has managed to get one site taken down so far.
INZ general manager, Stephen Dunstan, said the department was also working with Google on other possibilities, including trademarking the NZeTA brand in a number of jurisdictions to prevent its "unauthorised and misleading use".
"Some third party sites are asking the right questions and collecting the correct information required for an NZeTA request.
"However, there are some sites that are not asking for sufficient information to be able to make a complete request on behalf of their customers. These are generally the sites that are acting unlawfully."
The Herald on Sunday also contacted Google about ads for the sites as they were clearly in breach of their own rules. They have now been taken down.
A spokesperson said: "We have strict policies that govern the kinds of ads we allow on our platform, and ads that intend to mislead or deceive users are a violation of those policies.
"When we find ads that violate our policies, we remove them."
Google did not respond to questions about blacklisting the sites to stop them appearing in searches.
Sue Bell, a Canadian living in Mexico, recently booked flights for an October visit and got an email this week from Air New Zealand advising of the new travel requirements for some travellers.
Following standard scam advice to never click a link in an email, she instead researched the NZeTA herself and Googled: "Do I need a visa to visit New Zealand if I'm Canadian?"
The website ranking at the top of the search results was one for a very convincing third party site with the highly inflated costs.
Bell entered her information, then paid US$99 ($155) and a confirmation email told her to expect the visa to be processed in up to three business days.
But about three minutes later, she got another email saying the visa had been processed. At that point she became suspicious and searched "eTA scam".
Bell said she was frustrated because she believed she was being diligent by not following links in an email and researching independently - which is the general advice to avoid scams.
"What a crummy set of circumstances, but I guess it teaches me to be even more vigilant."
Bell also wanted to warn others about the sites so more tourists don't fall victim to them.
"I've always wanted to travel to New Zealand but if this is the worst thing that happens to me, I'll be happy."
ieVisa charges US$99 in services fees and US$50 for the visa, totalling $233.
The site, which is based in the United Arab Emirates, says this is a "nominal handling fee" for their services.
Sites contacted by the Herald on Sunday have not responded to requests for comment.
INZ said any travellers who had used a third party site and were concerned about the validity of their NZeTA should go back to the site they bought it through.
"INZ is unable to assist in those circumstances, as the transaction is between the traveller and the site they used," Dunstan said.
INZ strongly encouraged all travellers to use the official government website immigration.govt.nz or mobile apps when requesting their NZeTA to ensure they were not being overcharged and that their visa was official.
Last year, Google took down ads for similar sites that had highly elevated charges for American ESTA visas.