The US State Department temporarily shut down its online appointment system for passport applicants, claiming the crooks had scheduled appointments, then sold them for thousands of dollars to desperate travelers.
The crooks allegedly used bots to schedule dates which were then sold on online forums, including Facebook groups like “US Passports and Visas,” SFG gate reported. The State Department was first notified of the scams in June.
The online system provided the ability to schedule last minute appointments for travelers, which were often reserved for travelers in the event of a life-threatening emergency.
A message posted on the State Department’s website read: “We have temporarily removed the last minute online appointment booking system to ensure that our very limited in-person passport appointments and last minute in any of our agencies or centers go to applicants who need it. for an urgent trip.
The US State Department has temporarily shut down its online appointment system for passport applicants
State Department says con artists booked and sold dates for thousands of dollars to desperate travelers
The State Department announced the change in a post on its website
The State Department noted that the only way to make an appointment right now is to call the National Passport Information Center on weekdays.
“We made this change to address the issue of third parties taking all available appointments using robots and then selling them to applicants with urgent travel needs,” the post said.
Officials noted that wait times to reach a customer service representative can be long. Last minute in-person appointments are still extremely limited.
The State Department noted that appointments that had already been made online before Wednesday are still valid.
This change only applies to appointments at our passport agencies made through the State Department’s website, travel.state.gov, a State Department spokesperson told DailyMail.com in a statement.
Other online appointment booking systems for passport acceptance facilities have not changed, such as that on the US Postal Service’s website for in-person appointments at a post office.
Instead of letting people book their appointments online, the State Department appears to be holding “special passport fairs” across the United States, which announcement Wednesday on its website.
“Most of the events are for new clients and children using the DS-11 form to apply. If you are eligible to renew your passport, you must renew it by mail, ”the site reads.
For now, the only events that appear to be scheduled are in Van Nuys, Calif. On July 25, then four events in September in Florida, Ohio, Arkansas and Texas.
The State Department issued 11,711,945 passports in 2020, the lowest number since 2005, according to data from its website.
Americans, including a number of politicians, have blasted the State Department in recent weeks for long delays in processing passport applications as the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
It was reported that it took up to 18 weeks for passports to be returned as around two million U.S. citizens waited to receive their passports.
Last week, the US Passport Agency ended its walk-in service at its Vermont office after being overwhelmed by people searching for documents amid a backlog of 1.5 million requests across national, the State Department said.
Dozens of desperate travelers from across the northeast came to the St. Albans office after learning people could get passports on the spot and struggled to make appointments at other offices.
The Vermont Passport Agency was offering last-minute customer no-show meeting times at its premises, the State Department said in a statement Thursday.
The agency “ceased this practice due to unintended consequences on safety and security,” he said.
More than 20 people, including young children, waited outside the Vermont office last Thursday despite the policy change.
“I think it’s unfair that you change your policy overnight and tell no one,” said Dina Singh who arrived in Vermont at 5:30 a.m. after driving overnight from New York with her husband. and their 5 years. old girl.