Passports are highly coveted travel documents that open up the world and ease global mobility. Unfortunately, many so-called companies, agencies and individuals are willing to take advantage of people looking to apply for or renew their passports. Still others will go to great lengths to steal your passport. Below, Passport Index provides a list of the most common passport-related scams and how you can ensure you don’t fall victim to one of them.
Speeding Up Passport Application/Renewal Scams
If you ever come across a company or website offering to speed up your passport application or renewal time in exchange for a fee, beware! Typically only government agencies handle passport applications, and as such third parties have no bearing on the process. Anyone claiming that they can speed up your time to passport is most likely a fraudster. Be sure to check your government’s website for the rules concerning passport applications. For example, the government of Canada explicitly states, “No third-party person or group can speed up the processing of your passport application.”
Telephone and Email Scams
Unfortunately telephone and email scams still exist and it’s up to you to be vigilant. If you are ever contacted over the phone or by email by someone purporting to be from a government agency, beware! Government officials never ask for sensitive information, such as passport numbers, date of birth, credit card or other account numbers, over the phone or by email. Official government websites usually have a page stating this explicitly.
It is important to stay vigilant when travelling and ensure that your travel documents (and other personal items for that matter) are securely stowed away. Pickpockets have no end of techniques to remove items from purses and bags without you realizing, until that revelatory moment when you go to pull out your passport from your bag and it isn’t there.
Some con artists may pose as policemen or other officials and make off with your passport that way. If you are approached by a police officer abroad make sure to ask for identification and a badge.
Distraction techniques are another way thieves can make off with your passport. For example, someone may stop you to tell you that your clothing is dirty to distract you while they pick your pocket. Other more advanced methods include thieves laying down spikes on the road so that your tires burst and they can then pose as fellow drivers offering assistance. In situations like this remember that part of the distraction is to turn you away from your car so that a second person can rifle through it.
What Your Stolen Passport Could Be Used For
Criminals may attempt to change the picture in your passport or alter some of your personal data on the data page to reflect whoever wants to attempt to use it. Or it may not be changed at all and simply be sold to someone who looks like you. Check out Passport Index’s article about passport security features to learn about how passport-issuing authorities try to thwart these criminals.
What to Do If You Think You’ve Been Scammed or Had Your Passport Stolen
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a passport scam report it to the police immediately. You must also report it to the nearest government office of your country if you are travelling abroad. Your passport will likely be immediately made invalid to ensure that others can’t use it for illegal travel.
After that, you’ll probably have to apply for a new passport.