The US State Department suspended its passport online reservation system on Wednesday because of bots.
A third-party system used automated software to spam the passport scheduling site. The website experienced heavy traffic, and users were not able to book appointments.
“At 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 21, we temporarily disabled the online booking system for Urgent Travel Service to ensure our very limited appointments go to applicants who need them for urgent travel,” an update on the department’s consular affairs website said.
The State Department asks for individuals who booked appointments before the 10 p.m. shut down to call the department to verify the appointment.
“We are making this change to address the problem of their parties booking appointments online using automated programs or bots and then selling these appointments to customers with urgent travel needs. We are not affiliated with any third-party appointment booking services, and we do not charge a fee to make an appointment,” the department wrote in an update.
“Third parties booked all available appointments within minutes of the appointments being posted online, which prevented many of you from making urgent appointments and made it difficult to determine whether your appointment was legitimate or fraudulent.”
The federal agency is experiencing a major backlog because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a backlog of more than a million applications for passport issuance. Legislators want to know what the State Department plans to do to address the long wait times and pileup. The organization said in the update that they have hired more people to reduce the backlog.