Renewing your passport comes with a number of headaches – one of the biggest being the current wait times to receive your updated passport in the mail.
Experts have identified phony third-party websites popping up across the internet – some claiming to expedite passport renewal for a fee, others just claiming to offer passport renewal services. In all cases, these scam sites get consumers’ personal information – name, date of birth, address, Social Security number, passport number, etc. – and go on to steal their identity.
If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is
According to the Department of State website, the current timeframe to process a passport renewal is 10-13 weeks, or seven to nine weeks for those willing to spring for an additional $60 fee. In contrast, earlier this year, processing times were between eight and 11 weeks, or five to seven weeks with the expedited fee.
This processing time doesn’t take into account the amount of time it takes to receive your passport in the mail – that could be another four weeks.
Because of this slowdown, scammer sites have started to spring up. Some of these sites are promising a faster return on passport renewals, while others are simply offering to help consumers along in the passport renewal process.
Scammers have taken to creating fake ads for their services that can be seen on social media and other websites, and some have started sending texts and emails to promote their “services.” In other instances, consumers have done a simple Google search for “passport renewal,” and one of these phony sites comes up near the top.
Regardless of how consumers come across these sites, the scam is pretty much the same: the sites ask for tons of personal information (more than the official government site), there are fees associated with completing the renewal form (which isn’t the case on the official government site), and often months go by – without a passport in sight – before consumers realize that they’ve been scammed.
One of the biggest risks associated with this scam is that these companies now have access to peoples’ personal information. It’s an easy way for scammers to steal consumers’ identities and ultimately cost them a lot of money.
How to protect yourself
To protect yourself from this passport scam, be sure to only provide personal information on the official State Department passport website. As a rule of thumb, all government-affiliated websites will end in “.gov” – if the site you’re on doesn’t end in that, steer clear!
Many of these fake websites are designed to mimic the layout of the State Department’s site, using similar color schemes, fonts, or images. Be sure to double-check the URL every step of the way.