Passport Renewal Scams: How Fraudsters Exploit Delays at the Passport Office

Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated and persuasive methods to trick potential travelers into paying for non-existent vacations and services, including expedited passport renewals.

By Megan Baynes, social affairs and health journalist @megbaynes

Wednesday, April 12, 2023 12:51 a.m., United Kingdom

Holidaymakers have been warned to look out for scammers offering fake fast-track passport services, amid delays caused by striking government workers.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has warned that scammers are using increasingly sophisticated and persuasive methods to dupe would-be travelers into paying for non-existent holidays and services, including speedy passport renewals.

The scams include fake social media ads with photos of vacation homes and hotels, along with “too good to be true” prices.

Often victims didn’t realize they had been scammed until they arrived at the airport to find their flight reservation didn’t exist, or at a hotel to find there wasn’t. no trace of their reservation.

But then the crooks took their money and disappeared, the CTSI warned.

Katherine Hart, Head of CTSI, said: “These fake advertisements are designed to steal our money, leaving us disappointed and without a vacation.

“As with any purchase, do your research, only buy from reputable companies, and make sure you are 100% sure who you are dealing with and what you are getting before parting with money.”

How scammers exploit passport delays

With disruption at the UK Passport Office caused by a strike, the CTSI also warned against text messages and emails offering rapid passport renewals. These can cause victims to lose personal data, as well as money to fraudsters.

An adult passport renewal (when done online) costs £82.50 or £93 (if using a paper form). For children under 16, applications cost £53.50 online and £64 by post.

Currently it can take up to ten weeks to renew an adult passport – this means that even if an application was submitted today, it may not arrive until the end of June. With summer holidays on the horizon and a potential backlog of expired passports during the pandemic, holidaymakers are urged to check their expiration date and allow plenty of time to renew before any travel.

Read more: When do Passport Office strikes take place and can I still renew?

If you need a passport urgently and cannot wait 10 weeks, there are normally two options available, but they cost more.

The one-week Fast Track application service will deliver your new passport to you within a week of an in-person appointment at a passport office. It costs £155 for an adult passport and £126 for a child passport.

The Online Premium service is for renewal of adult passports only and costs £193.50. You will receive your new passport at the appointment.

But, because of the strikes, the demand for these appointments exceeds their availability.

To avoid being scammed, always check the URL and security of any website and independent reviews of the website itself. When renewing a passport, use only the official government website.

Paying using a secure method – such as a credit card – will also offer some protection against scams.

CTSI Managing Director John Herriman added: “As always, scammers are quick to jump at any opportunity to take advantage of uncertainty and upheaval.

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“The exploitation of delays caused by Passport Office strikes is just the latest example of scammers preying on people’s vulnerability.

“People work hard and save all year round for their holidays – scammers know that, but they don’t care. We can all fight back, however, by being vigilant, following a few simple guidelines and spreading the word about the harm these scams can cause.”

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