Criminals have decided to capitalize on the logjam in the passport authorization process. A flood of travelers renewing their passports in 2021 slowed the process to a crawl, opening the door for scammers to sneak into the mix and make a quick buck.
Some criminals lure in people who want to speed the passport process by promising to authorize their travel papers ahead of schedule. Here’s what you need to know about these scams and how to avoid the criminals preying on travelers.
Passport scammers pose as government officials or as helpful legitimate services who can speed up your passport process. These criminals are savvy and know how to present themselves genuinely: they often have websites that look like the real thing. These fake sites ask for your personal information, like your social security number and date of birth.
Unsuspecting travelers eager to make their flights in time will often act uncritically when presented with these fake sites. By the time they realize they’ve given their information to a criminal, it’s too late. All of the information you need for your passport is the same data a criminal needs to commit identity theft.
Some scammers employ a complicated scheme where they use phone spoofing technology to make their phone numbers look like the Department of Homeland Security. Then, they’ll call random phone numbers and accuse people of their passports being involved in the commission of a crime.
This scam involves the criminals scaring their victims into thinking they could face legal repercussions if they don’t act to clear their name. The “officials” will demand personal information, like bank account numbers, social security information, and other sensitive data. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be law enforcement, tell them to contact your lawyer. Never give anyone your personal information over the phone.
Scammers will try to trick you into paying to fill out basic passport forms. If someone tells you that you owe an expediting fee or a similar fishy-sounding payment, they’re trying to scam you. Report any such schemes to law enforcement so the authorities can handle the criminal in question.
Use your best judgment when you’re preparing to travel. You’ll never need to pay to submit passport forms, and you can’t get your papers back faster by paying a private company for expedited service. Just be patient and you’ll be ready to travel before you know it! Impatience will just lead you to underhanded scammers.