Holidaymakers warned of bogus ‘fast track’ passport services

By Linsey McNeill
Home » Holidaymakers warned of bogus ‘fast track’ passport services

Trading standards chiefs are warning that scammers are taking advantage of the ongoing Passport Office strike to trick people into making bogus passport applications.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) says con artists are using ‘increasingly sophisticated and convincing’ scams to persuade victims they’re offering a ‘fast track’ passport service.

They often targeting victims in social media posts and online ads, it says, and there have recently been a number of texts and emails offering speedy passport renewals.

The CTSI warned that as well as taking victims’ money, scammers can then use the personal data they harvest to commit identity theft.

CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “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.

“People work hard and save all year round for their holidays – scammers know this, but they don’t care. We can all fight back though by being alert, by following a few simple guidelines, and spreading the word about the harm these scams can cause.”

Scammers also often post attractive pictures of holiday cottages and hotels on social media to trick people into handing money over for holidays that don’t exist, said Trading Standards.

The photos are accompanied by ‘fantastic’ prices and ‘tempting’ special offers to snare people in search of a bargain holiday.

By the time holidaymakers realise that the pictures and prices were entirely fabricated, it is too late – the scammers have taken the money and run, leaving victims out of pocket, with no holiday and no means of getting their money back, added the CTSI.

In many cases scammers tell their victims to pay by cash, via bank transfer or through services such as Western Union, which are difficult to trace and non-refundable.

Often victims don’t realise they’ve been scammed until they arrive at the airport and find their flight reservation doesn’t exist, or they arrive at a hotel to find there is no record of their booking.

CTSI Lead Officer, Katherine Hart, 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% sure who you are dealing with and what you are getting before you part with any money.”

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