Passport Scams on the Rise Amid Logjam of Applications | #phishing | #scams



The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, ic3.gov, and other federal agencies have been hearing reports of the scams, Bernas says.

According to Bernas, there are legitimate passport expeditors — and they, too, have been hurt by the backlog, he adds. But many of the scams arise “from overseas with any scammer being able to create phony messages, emails, websites, Facebook posts, pop-up ads, etc.,” Bernas says.

AARP helpline logs reports of passport fraud

AARP’s FraudWatch Network Helpline, 877-908-3360, has fielded complaints about passport fraud. Amy Nofziger, who oversees the helpline, says the complaints about passport, rental car and other travel issues are on the uptick.

A Los Angeles woman called the helpline after visiting a passport website with a legitimate-sounding name. She gave up her Social Security and credit card numbers and bank account information. Only after completing an online “application” did she realize she had revealed too much information. Passport applications do not ask for banking information. Take a look at the applications for a first-time passport and a renewal.

According to the State Department, acceptable ways to pay passport fees vary based on whether the application is made by mail, at a passport acceptance facility or with a passport agency.

An Orange, California, man also called AARP’s helpline after using a third party to apply online for a passport and being charged $39 — three times. Fortunately, he says, his bank recognized the charges were fraudulent.

For more about passport applications, here’s guidance from the State Department.

The State Department urges people to report passport fraud by emailing PassportVisaFraud@state.gov.

AARP’s Nofziger says even if a foreign trip is not on the horizon, it’s a good idea to check the expiration date of your passport right now, so if needed you can “start the process” of applying for a new one.

Tips for avoiding passport scams:

  • Avoid suspicious websites that purport to help you quickly obtain the little blue book. To investigate a site, search its name online with terms such as “reviews” and “complaints” and “scam.”
  • Check out companies using the Better Business Bureau’s website.
  • Be on guard for bad actors pretending to be from a government agency. Never trust an unsolicited phone call or email that asks for personal information or fees and supposedly is from the State Department or a passport agency.
  • And a tip-off to a rip-off: a request to pay using gift cards, wire transfers or bitcoin. None are acceptable for passport fees.



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