Carol Williams thought she was on an official website, but she got a nasty shock. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Carol Williams thought she was on an official website, but she got a nasty shock. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Online passport renewal scam ensnares Cowichan woman

Carol Williams thought the website looked genuine but the whole thing was a scam

If you’re looking to renew your passport, Duncan resident Carol Williams says don’t try to do it online.

She got an unpleasant surprise last week. She thought she’d managed to renew her passport online but discovered instead that she’d fallen into a trap. All the website she went to could do was send her a package about renewal, and they charged her more than $200 for that service.

“I heard from the people at the government office that they’re doing it with birth certificates and everything too. They’re doing it to all kinds of different people and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Williams, however, thought the website looked real so she went ahead.

“I had to send everything to them. But according to the guy at the passport office — the real passport office — they get your information through the computer and send it off to Quebec and then they send it on and they forward it to me.

“So, it’s a great big scam.”

Now, that she’s found out what’s happening, Williams’s first concern is for other people.

“I want to really put the word out there for everybody. I just saw it and thought it was a legit place. I went online just to see what the fees were. It said ‘online renewal’ and I thought it was real. Now, [the real passport people] say they can’t do anything about it. It’s just fraud.”

Williams has always gone to the passport office in Victoria for her renewals but this looked like a quick and easy way to get the job done from her Cowichan Valley home.

“I did it originally about two weeks ago. Then, I got the paperwork back the other day and I got it all together but saw that I still owed. I had to wait till Monday to phone because it arrived on a weekend. I didn’t know that I wasn’t dealing with the government from the start.”

When Williams found out that she still owed $160, she thought she’d see if she could pay it directly in Duncan.

“I went down to the government office in Duncan and that’s when she told me that you can do a passport renewal here now. I paid $116 for the actual passport. The $217 [she had already been charged] had nothing to with that fee. Online they said there’d be a small fee and I thought they charged you for the paperwork. But $217?”

It was quite easy to get caught, though, she said.

There’s also a concern about identity theft when you are giving a scammer a lot of personal information.

“People are getting burned all the time, and we can’t do anything,” Williams was told by the real passport office.

According to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, they have not had complaints about this specific online problem, but urge anyone who has suffered from this or any other scam to come in and make a complaint at their office so they can open a file.