County Clerk Warns Residents of Misleading Fee-Based Passport Websites

January 11, 2011 Updated Jan 11, 2011 at 2:51 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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County Clerk Warns Residents of Misleading Fee-Based Passport Websites

January 11, 2011 Updated Jan 11, 2011 at 2:51 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW-TV)

Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul is warning residents of websites that dramatically overcharge for passport services available for free in the Erie County Clerk’s Office. The Clerk’s Office was made aware of the existence of such sites after receiving a customer complaint.

One such website describes itself as a “do it yourself” online service to obtain travel documents, including U.S. passports. It offers information on how to complete passport applications and electronic versions of the applications themselves for an excessive $69 fee on top of the federally-required passport fees. According to the customer, a $69 payment was made online with a credit card, and the paperwork was never received - documents that would have been provided free in the Clerk's Office, in other passport processing offices or through the Department of State.

“People need to be aware that paying for this information is an unnecessary expense and that there are local agencies, like the Clerk’s Office, that are more than happy to assist your passport needs,” said Hochul.

Hochul also cautioned that residents should be wary of any site offering government information that does not have “.gov” included in its web address.

Passports services are provided in the Clerk’s downtown office at 92 Franklin St Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. or at the Northtown Passport Office adjacent to the Northtown Auto Bureau on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Information can be found online either through the Clerk’s Office at www.erie.gov/clerk or through the Department of State at www.travel.state.gov. People can also call the Clerk’s Office at 858-8865 with any passport questions.