A relative of mine who is not particularly au fait with using the internet recently asked if I would help her renew her passport online. Passport forms have long since filled people with dread; the fear of putting a cross in the wrong box or signing just outside of the allotted signature space, smiling on your photo… Anyway, you get the gist. Renewing your passport online is an easy process, or at least it should be but as I discovered things are not always as they seem…
If you go online and do a search for ‘online passport application’ the first site that pops up (albeit in the paid for adverts at the top of a Google page) is www.passport.uk.com. The site seems simple enough, simply follow their online application, pay the £72.50 renewal fee online and they will send you your forms to simply sign and send back to the passport office. The only problem is (and this is not the only website doing this) if you read the fine print what this site actually does is just charge you the renewal fee for them to send your details off to the UK Passport Office where you will be charged the same amount again for your official passport renewal; effectively you pay twice!
These websites are not illegal but they are scamming people out of money by offering them a ‘fast track’ or a ‘checking service’ which actually doesn’t exist. All these sites are doing is the same thing you can do yourself by going to your local Post Office (who offer free advice or help) or applying directly through the official government website, https://www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport. By getting themselves to the top of Google search pages these companies give the impression that they are official, reputable companies. They are not!
Any secure website will have the padlock symbol in the URL bar at the top of the page; these so-called ‘passport checking service’ sites do not have this so they are a concern in terms of divulging all of your personal information as well. You input details such as your name, address, date of birth and even answer security questions such as your mother’s maiden name, not to mention the fact you give over your card details when you make the payment… It’s very worrying indeed.
These sites do nothing to help your application, they keep the fees you pay them and then you get the nasty shock of being asked to pay again by the official passport office. If you need to get a new passport or renew the one you have please make sure you ONLY go through the official government website https://www.gov.uk/browse/abroad/passports or you go into your Post Office and do it the old fashioned way, on paper. Making sure you put a cross in the right box is preferable to having your identity stolen and paying double the amount for your passport!
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