If you’re renewing your passport, beware of scammers
Passport delays due to a five-week strike by passport workers have created an opportunity for scammers to exploit anxious travellers. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has warned that fraudulent ads on social media are designed to “steal money” and take advantage of uncertainty. Renewals have been taking longer than usual because of the record number of applications post-Covid. Some travellers did not get their passports in time. The ongoing dispute over pay and conditions has caused a rush of renewals, in case the strikes continue, making more people vulnerable to scams.
People are easy targets for sophisticated scammers offering bogus holidays and too-good-to-be-true accommodation rates. Lots of people are preparing to go away, and there are many ads on social media advertising cottages and hotels with stunning pictures and unbelievably low prices. Katherine Har, CTSI lead officer, said, “Unfortunately, there are a lot of adverts on social media for cottages and hotels at home and abroad with incredible pictures and fantastic prices. These can be sophisticated scammers who are out to take your money and leave you without a holiday.”
How Can You Spot a Scam?
Scammers offer deals that are too good to be true. They take advantage of people’s desperation to get away. Travellers should be aware of some common scams. Fake holiday websites ask for money upfront, then fail to deliver the holiday, and refunds may be hard to get. Fake accommodation listings may include a fake address, misleading photos, and amenable owners, who pressure people into making a hasty booking and then vanish with the money. The CTSI says that people should be wary of ads offering holidays or accommodation via social media or instant messaging, particularly if the advertiser is new or unverified.
What Can You Do If You Are Scammed?
If you are scammed, immediately report the incident to your bank and the police. Report the scam to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, and your social media provider. Seek advice from Citizens Advice, which has a consumer service that gives free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. You can also contact the CTSI.
Travellers should be cautious when booking holidays and accommodation and always be aware that deals that look too good to be true, often are. Scammers take advantage of uncertainty, pressure, and a sense of urgency, so always be wary of ads offering holidays or accommodation via social media or instant messaging, particularly if the advertiser is new or unverified.
FAQ: The 5 Most Common Questions
1. What is the passport workers’ strike?
The passport workers’ strike is a dispute between the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) over pay and conditions.
2. How long is the passport workers’ strike?
The strike lasted for five weeks, from 23 April to 24 May.
3. Why are passport renewals taking longer than usual?
Renewals have been taking longer than usual because of the record number of applications post-Covid.
4. What are some common holiday scams?
Common holiday scams include fake holiday websites, fake accommodation listings, and ads offering holidays or accommodation via social media or instant messaging.
5. What should I do if I am scammed?
Report the incident to your bank and the police, report the scam to Action Fraud, seek advice from Citizens Advice, and contact the CTSI.