I'm guessing that like most people, you haven't had much use for your passport over the last year and a half or so because of the pandemic and its restrictions.

But now that things have begun to open up again, and more of us are considering taking a trip to see things beyond Northern Illinois, it might be an idea to dig out your passport and check to see if it's still valid.

Oh, you don't have one? You're far from being alone.

According to YouGovAmerica, only one-third of Americans (35% of Midwesterners) have a valid and unexpired passport, which is about the same number of us who have never had a passport. About 20 percent of Americans have one, but it's expired or invalid.

Photo Taken In United States, Dallas
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If you don't have a passport and you don't really care if you ever get one, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if you want to renew an expired passport or get one for the first time, you're looking at delays. Big delays, in some cases.

The Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that wait times for both new and renewal routine passport applications can be up to 18 weeks. Even the wait time for “expedited passports” can take up to 3 months and let's not forget that includes a $60 fee. Right now, there is an estimated backlog of between a million and a half to 2 million applications.

So what about the targeting that I mentioned in the headline?

Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business
Bureau told us:

Scammers, posing as Passport expeditors are stepping in and convincing their victims for a higher fee they can get quickly get through the processing time, including the initial internal intake of the applications, and mailing. Along with money losses in these scams, passports contain critical personal information that unlocks identity theft for years to come.

Scammers are really hoping to catch people who have a trip planned and who are now worried that they won't get their passport back in time to actually be able to go. Unlike many other scams, it's fairly easy to tell that someone is trying to take advantage of you.

The State Department won't call you to offer you a "deal" to expedite your passport, so someone calling, texting, or emailing you "out of the blue" is a pretty good indicator that it's a scam. Also, be wary of how you're asked to pay to speed things along. If gift cards, wire transfers, or crypto-currency is brought up as a payment method, it's a scam.

Another way to avoid hassles with your passport is to travel domestically and visit places like these:

10 Roadside Stops in Wisconsin You Must See This Summer

LOOK: Stunning vintage photos capture the beauty of America's national parks

Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.

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