With the passport application and renewal appointment slots at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) going scarce, a lot of scammers have come out of the woodwork, providing “services” to people desperate to get their passports on time.
At the start of the year, the DFA warned the public about the growing number of passport appointment scams. Most of them come from Facebook where one can easily reach out and message anyone.
At the meeting of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Foreign Undersecretary Joel Montales laid out four of the most common scams on Facebook. According to him, all of these pages on Facebook employ similar marketing schemes.
“They make it appear that they can get appointments at will or that they have reserved slots which they can sell to the public,” said Montales.
Even if you really need a passport and are frustrated trying to get a renewal appointment, you should beware of these four types of Facebook scams for DFA passport appointment:
1. Putting a false bar code on the application form of an applicant, to make it seem that the person’s application has been accepted.
Montales elaborates on the scam: “The first type is a pure scam. They fill up an application form for the applicant, put a false bar code…to give an impression that the applicant has duly submitted the application.”
2. Getting an appointment on the applicant’s behalf, telling them they can use the courtesy lane for the passport application.
“For example, a senior citizen is approached by a swindler. The applicant is referred to a courtesy lane and is accommodated. We added a pop-up in our appointment site. If an applicant would visit our site, they will see if they are entitled to courtesy lane or not,” Montales explains.
Anyone who sets his own appointment through the DFA website will be informed of the documents needed, application guides, and other warnings and important messages pertaining to the application.
As of writing, the DFA passport appointment system posts the warning on the site:
“The DFA discourages applicants from securing online appointment through fixers. Please be warned that dealing with fixers is at your own risk and expense.”
And while there are currently no available schedules, their advice remains the same: “Appointment slots become or are made available from time to time. We recommend that you regularly visit this site to check the available slots.”
The pop-up on the DFA website also posts below message:
NO APPOINTMENT IS NEEDED for the following:
SENIOR CITIZEN and one (1) travel companion
PERSON WITH DISABILITY (PWDs) and one (1) travel companion
SOLO PARENT and his/her minor children
MINORS SEVEN (7) YEARS OLD AND BELOW and his/her parents and minor siblings
OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS (land-based, or seafarers)
You may avail of the OFW LANE or COURTESY LANE at DFA Aseana or at any DFA Consular Office to apply for your passport.
3. Individuals pay fixers a fee so they can line up on courtesy lanes.
Other scammers even go so far as using authentic or fake endorsements from government officials or agencies.
Montales elaborates, “As a courtesy and by way of accommodation, DFA has been approving endorsements coming from different government agencies.”
“We’ve seen falsified endorsements and we’ve received information that applicants get authentic endorsements for a fee. So, in other words, some people are selling endorsements for government agencies. That’s the sad reality,” he added.
4. Convincing applicants that they can pay fixers for a reserved slot, only to discover that it was not reserved under their name.
The DFA says they have employed measures to prevent these fake schemes, but one should remain vigilant and always be on the lookout for more appointment slots to be released.
“In the meantime, we ask the public’s patience and cooperation. Please do not patronize these Facebook pages claiming to have slots and selling them. Many of them are scams and others are open invitations to corrupt government employees and cast doubt on our online appointment system,” Montales said.