Total money lost $45
Type of a scam Online Purchase
I did a Google search today in hopes of downloading a government form to renew my Canadian passport. My search was "passport renewal form." When I did the search, the first thing to come up was a link that said:
"Canada Passport Renewal Online | Get Started Quickly Now?
Get your Passport renewed Fast and Easy Get Started within 30 seconds Online! Peace of Mind. 100% Online Assistance."
Thinking I could go there to find the forms to fill out, I clicked the link. The front page of their website urges you to choose an option related to your needs for passport renewal. I clicked the button that said "Fill Form Online," screen shot included. What I didn’t see was the very small font at the top of the page in an orange bar that looked separate from the rest of the website "Passport Assistance is a privately owned website that is not owned or operated by any government agency. Click here for Online Assistance." It is very hard to notice, and on account of the website looking very much like an official government website, I breezed over that first warning sign.
So, I filled out the form. This is when I missed the second "fine print" part of the scam. Where they mention that you are paying for their services in addition to the government fees, and the real clincher, if you decide to cancel you have to pay a $75 cancellation fee. The thing about this fine print that tricked me was that it was put right underneath the credit card and interac information, in my opinion, it was made to look like you were agreeing to your credit card information being used, a usual statement to be made in this location. Picture included. Once again, the font was made very small, and in italics.
Upon recieving their confirmation email, I realized that this was not just a government form I was downloaded, it was actually an independant company that "processes passport applications." I immediately called them and explained my situation, that it was an accident, that I just was looking for the form, and that I wanted to cancel their service. This is when I was informed of the $75 cancellation fee. I am not someone who has a lot of money, so this really came as a shock and left me feeling very upset. What an expensive accident! At first the receptionist was very unforgiving and insistent. When I broke into tears explaining how I live pay cheque to pay cheque and really couldn’t afford a $75 fee for a service I didn’t even want, she offered to lower the fee to $50. I asked to speak with the manager, and was made to play phone tag for the next 3 hours. Being put on hold for 10 minutes at a time only to be told by an automated message that all the operators were busy (even though another automated message had jus ttold me I was first in line to be spoken too!) and to leave a message before promptly being hung up on.
I eventually did speak with the supervisor, Nicole, who explained that the fee I "needed" to pay was so they could "safely dispose of my sensitive information" (which I wouldn’t have given them in the first place if I had realized what was going on!). She offered to lower the fee to $45 and told me that was all she could do. As it stand, I was refunded the $160 they initially took for the service (notice how this is made to be about the same cost as to renew your passport at Service Canada), and made to pay the $45 cancellation fee. But ti cost me a lot more in terms of my mental well being, and the 3 hours it took to resolve the issue.
Please shut down this company! There are numerous complaints just like mine out there on the internetm and even the goverment has issued warnings about this company. They scam every day Canadians like me on the daily, often for much more than $75, as you can only pay the cancellation fee if you catch your mistake in the first 2 days!
I appreciate you taking the time to hear me out, it has been a very crazy day for me. I really hope you can do something about this scam. It is my personal opinion that they should be paying back all the people they have taken advantage of like this.
PS: turned out I could only attach one image, I decided to go with the second one