Scammers shut down passport application booking system, creating a crisis for desperate travelers

Scammers shut down passport application booking system, creating a crisis for desperate travelers

On Wednesday evening, the U.S. Department of State shut down its online appointment system for passport applicants citing scammers who had been grabbing appointments in order to sell them to desperate would-be travelers for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. The scammers, who were targeting those with an urgent and life-or-death need to travel internationally, used bots to scoop up bookings at the State Department's passport agencies, making it nearly impossible for others to get appointments. They would then join online forums, such as the “US Passports and Visas” Facebook group, and offer these appointments — a free government service — for a fee, as SFGATE first reported on Wednesday. On Wednesday evening, the State Department shut down the passport agency’s online booking system entirely. “We are making this change to address the problem of third parties booking appointments online using automated programs, or bots, and then selling these appointments to customers with urgent travel needs,” read a note on the department’s web page. The change is described as temporary and to “ensure our very limited appointments go to applicants who …
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