The U.S. Department of State temporarily disabled its online appointment system as people are scoring emergency passport appointments online then fraudulently trying to resell them to desperate would-be travelers.
Third-party sellers took advantage of major delays at passport offices across the country because of COVID-19-related closures and staff reductions. They use bots — automated programs — to snatch up appointments, according to the State Department.
To address the scheme, the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs temporarily disabled the online booking system for urgent travel service at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Appointments scheduled before then will be honored.
Applicants now need to call the National Passport Information Center to schedule or change an appointment.
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The change only impacts appointments at the State Department’s 26 passport agencies and centers.
It does not impact appointment booking at facilities in post offices, libraries and other local governments.
Staff has been added to handle the increased call volume and phone menus have been updated to help streamline the wait times.
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The State Department asks applicants to be patient as they ensure appointments for those who really need them.