If you are renewing your passport and are facing passport delays thanks to the 5-week passport workers’ strike, you could be a target for scammers.
According to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) fraudulent ads on social media are designed to “steal money” and “ take advantage of uncertainty”.
Renewals have been taking longer than usual in recent times as a result of a record number of applications post-Covid. During this time some unlucky travellers did not get their passports in time.
Now, the ongoing strike dispute over pay and conditions has triggered another bumper level of renewals by those travelling later in the year just in case the strikes continue.
Understandably people are anxious and as a result, are easy prey for sophisticated scammers luring people into booking bogus holidays and too-good-to-be-true accommodation rates.
Katherine Har, lead CTSI lead officer, said.
“Lots of people are preparing to go away at the moment and, unfortunately, there are a lot of adverts on social media advertising cottages and hotels at home and abroad with incredible pictures and fantastic prices. These bogus adverts are designed to steal our money, leaving us disappointed and without a holiday.”
“As with any purchase, do your research, only shop with reputable companies, and make sure you are 100 per cent sure who you are dealing with and what you are getting before you part with any money.”
CTSI chief executive John Herriman warned:
“As always, scammers are quick to leap on any opportunity to take advantage of uncertainty and upheaval.
“The exploitation of delays brought about by Passport Office strikes are just the latest example of scammers preying on people’s vulnerability.”
Types of scam
There are generally two types:
- Passport renewal checking service providers, often charging £30 or more. Don’t bother, any post office will do it for £7.50.
- Premium rate number – you get to pay between £1,50 to £3,00 a minute just to be told how to renew or passport.
- Text or email offering speedy passport renewals.
Ways of speeding up renewals
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.
As things stand you may have to wait up to ten weeks. With summer holidays on the horizon and a potential backlog of lapsed passports from during the pandemic, holidaymakers are being urged to check their expiry date and leave plenty of time to renew ahead of any travel.
The only way to speed up a renewal is by paying for the one-week Fast Track service which aims to deliver your passport after an appointment at the passport office. It costs £155 for an adult passport and £126 for a child passport.
The Online Premium service is just for renewing adult passports and costs £193.50. You will get your new passport at the appointment.
Preventative measures to take
The CTSI suggests these measures:
- Check the URL and security of any website you are booking a holiday through
- Always look at independent reviews, not just reviews on a website or advert itself
- Do your research and contact the owners of a holiday cottage before making a booking
- Pay using a protected payment method such as a credit card, debit card or PayPal’s Buyer Protection service
- For consumer advice, please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133