A passport is one of the most important documents any person can own. It contains most of the basic and pertinent information about an individual. It must be presented at the immigration when you travel abroad as a requirement before roaming freely in another country, sometimes coupled with a visa.
Just based on its contents and its purpose, passports are hot in the eyes of scammers. They use various methods to steal money and pertinent information from first-time passport applicants and people renewing their passports.
Besides that, passport scams are also linked with serious crimes such as international terrorism, illegal immigration, and smuggling of goods and contraband. That’s why countries and owners are extremely careful with their passports.
Whether you’re a frequent overseas traveler or not, you have to avoid passport scams and theft. Here are some helpful tips you can apply to do that.
Confirm you meet passport requirements
You can avoid passport scams with something as basic as confirming whether you meet the requirements to have a passport or not. You should only apply for one if you’re qualified for it.
Due to some people’s strong desire to travel abroad for whatever reason, they look for quicker ways to get their passport applications approved, which are sometimes underhanded. They do so without thinking about what would happen if they were caught by immigration.
It’s better to play by the rules when applying for a passport. Therefore, you should first check the requirements on the immigration website or get in touch with the immigration office to inquire about it.
You should avoid relying on acquaintances and even immigration people who say they can get you a passport even if you’re not qualified. They may lure you by saying convincing statements and have you pay more than you should for a regular application.
While those people may help you get a legitimate passport, how they’ll obtain it are most likely illegal.
Learn the red flags
People who fall victim to passport scams are often unaware that they spoke to someone who offered them an illegal way to obtain their passports. That’s why you have to know every legal way to obtain one to tell if someone is trying to scam you.
A common scam that you should know is under the guise of economic citizenship programs. Scammers offer people who wish to become citizens of another country a way to do it through these programs. Economic citizenship programs involve investing a certain amount of money to start a business in another country.
The red flag of this scam is that these programs are supposed to be public knowledge. If you can’t find anything about the program a person told you about, chances are it’s a scam.
In addition, economic citizenship programs also have five-figure fees. So if someone offers you a promise of lower fees or faster processing of documents, don’t accept it.
Should you want to explore such an opportunity, you should contact your local immigration authorities for more information. Get what you need to know from a legitimate source to avoid falling for scams.
Take note of the application process
This tip is especially helpful for those applying for naturalization. Naturalization is the admittance of a foreigner to the citizenship of another country.
Normally, applying for a passport is part of the rigorous naturalization process in many countries. An individual who wishes to be naturalized and obtain a passport must typically spend a certain amount of time in the country.
The country will also perform background checks on each applicant for safety. So it would take a while before one can have a passport.
If someone offers you a faster way towards obtaining a naturalized citizen passport, then they’re probably lying. When in doubt, find an immigration attorney and confirm the legitimacy of the process with them. Your consulate can refer you to an immigration lawyer for this matter.
Don’t renew via third parties
One too many scammers advertise themselves as a legitimate third party that aids passport applicants. For example, a common third-party scam will say they can expedite the passport renewal process in as little as 24 hours.
As tempting as that kind of offer is, you shouldn’t fall for it. That’s a typical trap that third-party scammers use to deceive unsuspecting passport holders.
You should avoid renewing your passport via any of them. Instead, only do it with the government office that issued it and work through them throughout the process.
It’s possible to find scammers advertising online via Google offering to expedite passport applications and renewal. These websites usually don’t have a physical address and have fake telephone numbers.
They would also ask you to fill out application forms requiring you to input your information. You shouldn’t do it because they can use your information for other illegal schemes.
Avoid the “world passport”
You may encounter someone who sells a “world passport.” Some countries do recognize this travel document, but only a few of them in the world do.
A world passport is something claimed to allow people to travel anywhere. That claim is partly true because it’s legal in some countries but not worldwide.
You should pass on it because scammers use it to deceive travelers. Instead, you should apply for a passport in the country where you’re legally recognized as a citizen.
Photocopy your passport’s personal details page
Photocopying the page on your passport containing your personal information is a good way to protect yourself from identity theft. It comes in handy in situations where your identity’s security might be compromised.
You’ll need to hand your passport to authorities before stepping foot within its borders for checking. However, someone will want to confirm personal information, such as your name. For these situations, a photocopied version of your personal information on your passport would be more suited.
You should have that particular page photocopied and laminated. It’ll be better if it’s the size of a card to carry it around with you easily.
Lamination will protect it from damage. It’ll also make it easier to find and keep in your bag, wallet, or pocket.
Scan your passport and store the copy
The fact that many countries are now exploring the idea of a digital passport will make things convenient for travelers. However, if you don’t have one yet, you can make your own by scanning your passport.
Scanning your passport is another nice way to secure it. Once you’ve scanned it, you should store it on your computer, storage device, or an online storage website or app that is secured.
When thinking about where to store the scanned copy of your passport, you should find something secure but can be easily retrieved. An online-based email is a good option for this.
Only show your passport to the authorities in public
To protect your passport from being stolen, you should only show it to authorities in public. It’s a basic protective measure a private individual like you can do, even outside your country.
If you encounter a situation where a government official asks you to show your passport, check the area first. If you’re at a secluded location, politely ask them to take you back to their office before turning your document over.
A credible official would have no problem granting your request. The laminated photocopy of your passport should also suffice during such circumstances.
If they insist on seeing the original copy, insist on taking you to their office. The reason for this is to make sure that the official you’re talking to isn’t a scammer in disguise.
You should be wary of those people because they’ll try to extort money from you before giving your passport back. That’s why you should also verify their identity before handing over such an important document.
Ensure you carry your passport securely
When carrying your passport with you, you should always ensure that you won’t lose it or have it stolen easily. So here are some secure ways to carry it:
- Avoid carrying it in your back pocket. Put it in your money belt instead.
- Carry it in a zipped up storage, e.g., inner jacket pocket
- If you want to carry it with your purse, wear it across your body so that nobody can pull it off of you.
Store your passport securely
You should keep your passport somewhere safe. At home, you should store it in a safety deposit box or a home safe to keep water or fire from damaging it and from thieves.
When traveling, you can ask your accommodation provider to lock it in their safe. Another option is to lock it in your luggage and then keep it in a piece of immovable furniture like the bed.
Editor’s Note on Passport Scams and Theft:
Besides these tips, Consider The Consumer encourages you, our readers, to report any form of passport scam you encounter. A passport is an important document that must be fairly given to everybody who needs it. We’ll be more than happy to assist you in case you’ve been unfairly deceived by anyone in the process of obtaining your passport.