Hyderabad: The ministry of external affairs has raised a complaint with Google and the Union ministry of communications against fraudulent passport service websites that have been cheating citizens, some of whom happen to be senior bureaucrats from Telangana state.
Dr Vishnu Vardhan Reddy, Regional Passport Officer, Hyderabad, said, the creators of such websites are paying Google for preferential optimisation. “Such websites are charging Rs 5,000 per Tatkal application against its original cost of Rs 3,500, and between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 for a regular application.
Additionally, the applicants’ personal information is exposed.”
“Certain websites have been found to collect information from applicants and then apply on the applicants’ behalf to the official website to secure appointments at concerned Passport Seva Kendras. Subsequently, applicants receive their appointment details through SMS. In certain cases, however, applicants are issued fake appointments,” he said.
While www.passportindia.gov.in is the official website for passport services in India, fake websites have been registered with domain extensions .org, .in, .com, for example, www. india passport.org, www.online-passportindia.com. Google said in its response that these registered websites come with a disclaimer.
Besides the fake websites charging more than the original cost per application, a bigger threat is the exposure of citizens’ personal details like their addresses, date of birth and contact details among others.
Dr Vishnu Vardhan Reddy, Regional Passport Officer, Hyderabad, said, “Such fraudulent websites are misleading applicants on two fronts. Firstly, the disclaimer is small and, in most cases, tucked in a corner. Secondly, these websites — including their URLs — are almost identical to the government website....