Holiday makers have been warned to be on their guard by a mother-of-two who was caught up in a passport scam which threatened to wreck her travel plans and cost her nearly £100.
Journal media sales consultant Melissa Adam had applied for a new passport well ahead of a planned holiday in Minorca with her teenage sons but things started to go wrong when it was posted out to an old address where the new occupants signed for it before returning it to the passport office where it was deemed ‘compromised’ and had to be destroyed.
“With our holiday on May 22, I went on the official government website and typed in ‘get a passport within five days’ and a site called Passport Services came up,” said Melissa.
“I thought I would be able to arrange to go to Peterborough to get my new passport but they told me that it was no longer possible to do that and I would have to apply to an address in London.”
Still believing that Passport Services was an official part of the government website, Melissa followed the on-line instructions, paid £96 on her credit card, and posted off the form, which she had picked up at the post office, to the London address.
“Alarm bells started to ring when I got a phone call to say that I would have to collect my new passport from London or pay another £103 for a proxy named Jason Gasson to pick it up for me and post it out,” she said.
“I tried to ring them but the number on the website didn’t take incoming calls. I was really frustrated and panicking by this time and thought I would have to ask my ex-husband to go on holiday with the boys in my place.”
After further investigation she rang the number on the government website and was told she had been dealing with a bogus company. She was advised she could have an appointment at the Peterborough passport office on Monday. There she had to pay another £96 but came home with a new passport.
“I cannot believe I was taken in like that,” said Melissa. “It’s a bit embarrassing really, but the Passport Services fake website (www.britishpassportservices.co.uk) looked just like the government site and seemed to be part of it. It was all very plausible.
“I would just like to warn anyone who is going on holiday to make sure they apply for a new passport in good time or, if they need to do it quickly to make certain that it is the legitimate goverment passport office they are dealing with.”