Kerala: Lookalike portals fleece passport applicants

Officials of MoE said that ignorance among people that websites with URL ending in 'gov.in' were only genuine ones of the government was the reason why many fall into such traps.

A host of private passport service portals continue to fleece passport applicants despite a warning by the Ministry of External Affairs. The similarity of the website address (URL) and formats with government portals is said to be the reason for well-educated persons falling prey to it.

A college lecturer in Kerala, who recently fell trap to one such portal and lost Rs 4,000, has taken up the matter with the MoE, seeking action to block such sites.

Officials of MoE said that ignorance among people that websites with URL ending in 'gov.in' were only genuine ones of the government was the reason why many fall into such traps.

Though the MoE had given an alert message on the home screen of the official website, it serves no purpose when the passport applicants enter a bogus portal.

Thiruvananthapuram regional passport officer Ashique Karattil told DH that there used to be complaints from individuals regarding online cheating by bogus passport sites. Even well-educated persons, including techies, were among the victims.

Owing to embarrassment, many often did not file a police complaint. Though the centre takes steps to block bogus sites, it reappears with a slight change in the URL.

Thiruvananthapuram resident Dr Praveen S, who recently lost Rs 4,000 by making payment on 'passportsseva.net' for passport renewal, said that he got trapped as the link to the site came up prominently when he searched for passport online service in the web. Moreover, the formats and details sought did not generate any suspicion.

Praveen had written to the MeA and Central Vigilance Commission seeking steps to curb such websites.

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