PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Passports are in high demand right now, with two million applications currently being processed. Now, scammers are trying to take advantage of people desperate to get a passport.
Millions of Americans have a desire to travel right now after not being able to travel much throughout the pandemic. Wait times for passports are four-and-a-half months for renewals and 3 months if it's expedited. This is causing people to not get their passports when they intended to, which is causing them to have to cancel trips and vacations. Others are looking for any possible way to get their passport as soon as possible, which is where scammers are stepping in.
According to AARP, scammers are offering expedited services, but are obviously not delivering. The Better Business Bureau says scammers are booking the urgent travel appointments with the U.S. Dept. of State and then selling these appointments to desperate travelers for thousands of dollars.
This has become such a problem, the Department of State has stopped taking any new urgent travel appointments because third parties were using automated programs or bots to book these appointments and sell them.
AARP is offering tips to help people avoid being scammed. They say:
- Avoid non-government websites that claim to help you quickly obtain a passport
- 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.
AARP is now urging all Americans who are thinking about traveling out of the country within the next year to check the expiration on your passport and start the process of applying for one right now if you may need it.