/ Money, Motoring

Scam watch: driving licence renewals

Denis was almost fooled into paying a lot more than he needed to renew his driving licence by a copycat website. Does this ring any bells with you?

Denis Kearney told us:

‘If you’re over 70, watch out for copycat websites when renewing your driving licence. A website that often pops up when searching online looks just like the official DVLA website, but it charges you 90p to renew your licence. If you pay, you will also be enrolled into a recurring fortnightly charge of £38 for services.

‘The website asks for personal details to be submitted via an authentic-looking form, but this information doesn’t go to the DVLA. Instead, you’ll be sent the official application form to your home address. Thankfully, upon inspection of the small print, I spotted that these additional charges would be made and cancelled my card before any more money was taken.

‘Even if these sites are technically legal, they deliberately set out to deceive people.’

Our say on copycat sites

You should always go directly to the official ‘gov.uk’ website for government services – such as passport or driving licence renewals – rather than relying on search engines, where the results can display copycat websites.

These often charge an over-the-top fee for a free service, or mislead you into signing up for recurring payments. If you fall for one of these, you should be able to get your money back using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (if you paid by credit card) or a chargeback claim (debit card).

It’s illegal for a copycat website to parade itself as a government entity. We have called for a crackdown against sites that don’t prominently display that they’re not associated with the government and that you can get a passport or driving licence without additional costs through the official government website.

We have also pressed search engines to stop displaying adverts for copycat websites at the top of search results. Google has taken action to remove copycat sites for paid search results and has worked to ensure that the official gov.uk sites come top. If you see a misleading website, please report them to search engines on gov.uk.

Have you ever come across a copycat website for driving licence renewals?

Useful links:

Read Which? advice on how to spot a copycat website
Renew your driving licence on the official gov.uk DVLA website
Report a misleading website to search engines on gov.uk

Comments
Member

It should be illegal to set up any copycat government website where their intent is to mislead and defraud the public.

Member

“If you’re over 70, watch out for copycat websites when renewing your driving licence.”

Very specific advice. I hope I remember when I reach that age. Given that ” The DVLA will send you a D46P application form 90 days before your 70th birthday. Renewal is free of charge.” one might hope to avoid traps anyway.

However looking at the bigger picture my desire is that Which? becomes a safe haven for subscribers, particularly the elderly, where correct website addresses and links are guaranteed. Search engines are not infallible and given you can pay or engineer your website to the top of the heap actually rather dangerous to the casual user.

Come on Which? make life simpler and safer for subscribers.

Member

Illegal copycat internet sites should be fined heavily and forced to be taken down

Member

And thats the whole problem I have with this new Libertarianism that seem to get the “nod and a wink ” from our government ,Skypilot . Rip -off society taken to the level of “barrow-boys ” selling counterfeit goods while not having to bother with the “Law ” . Yes I have one of those “short term” licenses just did it all officially ,no problem , but tell me why persecute old people like me ? have youn seen the insurance statistics of young people killing themselves or others in fast cars or showing off to friends etc miles beyond any statistics for old people . AS a matter of fact insurance companies recognise this and I am with one who gives large reductions for older drivers with umpteen no claim years. Now why isnt there a Convo on that, too near the Truth ?

Member

Skypilot – As Alfa says above, in the first place “it should be illegal to set up any copycat government website where their intent is to mislead and defraud the public”. I find it difficult to work out which authority is responsible for taking action against internet misrepresentation, whether its Ofcom, or Trading Standards, or the Police, or the Advertising Standards Authority, or the authentic site owner [e.g. DVLA, HMPO, etc], and at the moment there seems to be doubt as to whether any offence has been committed. I think this would be a very important and valuable issue for Which? to focus on over the next year.

Personally I am very disappointed that the government agencies that are the objectives of this form of scam are not making daily checks on impostor sites and taking action themselves against the perpetrators.

Member

Thanks so much for this advice. My wife has just fallen for this fake website today! We put in the Govt address but found it rerouted to the fake website. Only realised when I read this and saw that there should be no charge. Presumably there cannot be any further charges until we sign a form, which of course we will not now do and anyhow we have cancelled the credit card. Although the Govt papers warn of such scams they should do more to close them down.

Member
Clive Bravery says:
21 March 2016

I, by mistake, used the wrong website when renewing my license, I was asked to pay 90pence. I thought that it was typical government inefficiency charge an amount that would hardly cover the cost of collecting the 90 pence. After completing the online form I found that I had signed up to an online document storage vault at the cost of £49. This fee is to be paid every 2 months. I attempted to cancel by phone but the female Indian who answered the phone hardly spoke English, but she was not authorised to cancel and her supervisor who has that authority was not able or willing come to the phone nor anyone else for that matter. I contacted my bank and reported my fears of a scam. My debit card has been cancelled and a new one issued. The £49 has gone from my account. The good news is that I didn’t pay the 90 pence

Member
Keith Thompson says:
27 April 2016

I was caught in the same way but phoned to cancel my subscription before finishing on the site. I paid with a credit card but it looks as though the £49 was not taken. The credit card fraud department saw a £49 charge on the card but said it had not been paid. I hope this is true. The small print on the site said the £49 every two months would start after 3 days. If they have taken it before the 3 days have elapsed it must be fraud. In that case surely the credit card company should be jointly liable?

Member
Caroline Carter says:
1 June 2016

I just wanted to inform you of a very upsetting incident involving my elderly mother this week. She was contacted by the DVLA last week to renew her driving licence and decided to try to renew online herself. (Generally my husband or myself will help her with such matters).

She made a slight error in typing the web address in her browser bar and rather than going directly to the page was taken to a Bing search results page. She selected the top option, believing it to be the DVLA, and unfortunately ended up on the ukdriving.help website. She followed their instructions to renew her licence at a cost of £59.99. It was only when we visited later in the day that her error became apparent.

She contacted ukdriving.help immediately, who claimed it was an administration fee and told her that she should have read the terms and conditions.

On our advice she also reported this to her credit card company, John Lewis. They have viewed the transaction as fraudulent and refunded the payment.

I believe this website is targeting elderly web users, knowing full well that many do not understand they are not part of the DVLA.

As a Which subscriber I would like you to publicise this in order to protect other elderly internet users, as I am sure not all companies will be as generous as John Lewis.

I also believe that search engines such as Bing and Google are complicit in this Internet fraud as they are happy to place advertisements above actual government websites and this too should be prohibited.

Member

Caroline – very sorry to hear of the trouble your elderly mother had and I am with you 100 % in your comment on Bing/Google being complicit in your mother,s problem . Bing/Yahoo/ Google earn money from directing you to third party websites their trick is to make the top website on the webpage the one that pays them . This isnt new but is a rip-off situation which millions of Internet user worldwide complain about, to me its disgusting blatant commercial cynicism but their excuse is-well you dont have to click on it —we only provide a variety of answers BUT their digital programming for their search engines are constructed that way -money first, customer welfare —zero.

Member
David Almond says:
6 September 2018

My mother has just been taken in by these shysters

Member
Bridget Clyde says:
17 July 2016

I was caught last night on this. Same thing, entered the url as per the dvla website but it defaulted yo Google and I clicked on the top one. Wrong. So quick to do but was just querying why a .90p charge when Nat West fraud dept sent a text. Luckily cancelled in time the charge was £49. However I gave them my passport number as proof of identity so am wondering if this should be cancelled along with the card?

Member

Bridget , in this country (UK) your passport number changes when you lose it, it is out of date , or it is stolen . After going through many websites on security the general consensus is– there goes your privacy . The days of limited hacking is now over just a bit of data and all your details can be obtained , I would change it .

Member

Thanks Duncan. That was my thought also.

Member
Angela Davies says:
31 July 2016

My husband needed to renew his driving licence. He would normally renew by post but left himself only 3 days to renew before the old one expired. He thought he was on the official website but was on “ukdrivinghelp.co.uk” instead. He filled in the detail and paid the £59.99 stated. Two days later we had the official form returned from the above with the details he had given online. He then completed the form and sent it to the DVLA. He then found that over 70s are not charged anything for their licence!
It seems illegal that this website appears at the top of any search for help – we didn’t know that such websites exist and it is too close in definition to the official “GOV” website anyway. Why can’t this be made clear and why can these types of businesses exist within the law??

Member

Angela , sorry to hear of this outright SCAM against older people . I am trying to get info on that URL (webpage address ) but two of my browsers refuse to show it and a third actually blocked it which doesnt sound good . Got it now — Well it says at the top its a non-official checking service with a £60 charge , not only that it is a totally non-encrypted website so all your details are now in third parties hands as well as any scammers/hackers that latch onto your computer . Aha ! Firefox doesnt show the detailed contract conditions on the webpage but a higher security browser shows a webpage with more details of what you get yourself into . But what firefox does say -in red = Warning this website is unsecure and liable to be open to passwords etc being obtained from it.

Member

More than six months ago DT suggested that Which? set up a hyperlink list of genuine and verified websites for driving licence renewals, although I’m fairly sure other sites could be included. Some sites are generally above board and do state openly and clearly that they’re not the official body. However, although I doubt your personal data will be any more secure on the .guv site (!) than elsewhere, it’d be nice to avoid paying for free services.

Member

The official government one is secure verified by DigiCert Inc + green lock by Firefox + verified on another browser using different security verification. Just for the record Ian not all the Convo,s on Which are secure its a bit piecemeal , I am working out the reason why. But there again Which isnt wanting a lot of personal details like driving license info. I should add those that are not totally secure on Which are semi-secure BUT That fake driving license website is TOTALLY INSECURE do you know what that means ?

Member

Yes. The point I was making that something in the order of 1400 laptops were left by Government officials on trams, trains and buses last year – and a good number weren’t even encrypted.

Member

Angela -what browser are you using and what search engine ? I inputted what someone who didnt know the exact URL would do – driving license renewal website UK and every time I got the real .GOV at the top and several lines down . I think you are being re-directed by either a virus or your search engine is trying to make money out of you by directing to third party websites that pay on a percentage basis of visits to it to the search engine company . well known to Google -Yahoo etc and especially Microsoft’s Bing .

Member

I just avoided getting stung for £48 in a “Renew driving licence at 70” scam. The scam was a website from Google called “Renew-driving-license-at-70”. I started completing the stuff, saw they wanted credit card details, and then realised “License” is a misspelling in UK. I closed my form down without completing it, re-entered the web address “Renew-driving-licence-at-70” and found I was on the official Government website. There was no mention of a fee this time.

A lucky escape! Watch out for “License” – it’ll cost you! And that form calls for driving licence info, NI number, passport number, dob, address – the lot!!

Member
mal says:
6 April 2017

come on people, the whole thing is a scam whether its a government website or not. charging to update the photo when the photo still looks the same. scam uk

Member
Andrew GILG says:
12 July 2017

I have just been scammed by “UKdrivinghelp” which looked like the DLVA and then conned me into paying £69.99 for over 70s renewal when it is free. I have e-mailed DVLA to try and get them to take this website down, have contected my credit card company who will d their best to get my money back. But please WHICH alert BING and Google etc to remove this website from their search engines and get DVLA to warn as well.

Member

I’m sorry to hear this Andrew. Keep up the pressure on your credit card company to get your money back. In the meantime you can report any misleading adverts you see on search engines here: https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2014/03/02/report-a-misleading-website-to-search-engines/

Member

I fell for it. I received a letter from the dvla telling me that my over 70 driving licence was coming up for renewal, and telling me that I could do it any time before the required date. Got on line by going to over 70 driving licence. Up game a page with that at the top of the page.
I filled in the questionaire which seemed identical to the one I had received from the DVLA. I noticed that there was a charge of £69.99, which I thought was rather a lot but put it down to a new government charge I had not previously heard of and put in my debit card details and sent off my application.
I then read further down the page and It dawned on me that I had been had. I rang the DVLA and found that It was not an official site and that a renewal was free. I rang my bank and was told the payment had gone through. Both the DVLA and my bank did not think there was much I could do. While they were aware of these sites, they were offering a service by forwarding my information to the DVLA. If I eventually receive my renewed licence then I cannot complain because it was my stupidity that set this in motion. There is a warning on the Saga site that bank details may be passed on to other unscrupulous scammers so now I have to replace my card. I am a little annoyed.

[Hello your comment has been edited to remove the link to the website you used, this is to protect others from clicking the link and using the site themselves. Thanks, mods]

Member
william bradley says:
16 January 2019

I was scammed by ukdrivinghelp on the internet for the same sum. You think you are dealing with the DVAL but you are not. They then had the cheek to send me a recorded delivery letter with a licence renewal DVALA form with part information, a stamped DVAL envelope and instructions fill in the rest of the information. I was lucky I got my money back from the bank. How can this company continue to operate on line?

Member

Because William they have a very small print disclaimer at the very bottom of their webpage in which they admit they raise a charges for their “service ” therefore they aren’t scamming /defrauding anybody—Legally .
£70 is quoted (and could be more )

I was given my license back (after tests ) when I had cataracts and I had new IOL lenses fitted by operations in hospital ,as well as attending the DVLA contracted Ophthalmologist to check my eyes for driving —cost ? —–Zero !

A word of warning -while the initial website is relatively free of third party snooping clicking on the link to apply takes you to a website that certainly has third party snoopers. It even uses the services of Bing (MS ) do I need to say more ?

In their favour another disclaimer appears this time at the top of the webpage so they have covered themselves pretty well from court action .

Member

If you put ‘driving licence renewal’ into your browser window what comes up first [with Google Crome at least] is “dvladocumentservice” with the browser address “- – -.drivinglicencesonline.com”.

This is not an official DVLA website and charges a fee for assisting with the application. The landing page is headed, in large type, “Driving Licence Application Service”. On the banner across the top is the following notice:

myvehiclesinfo.com is no way affiliated with the government of the United Kingdom or the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). We are a third party processing agency which charges a service fee. Your information may be submitted to the DVLA directy, for which they may or may not charge a fee.

The last sentence of that notice is deliberately misleading: it should say “you can submit your licence renewal application yourself direct to the DVLA free of charge”.

I thought action had been taken to deal with the cheats who had been hoodwinking the public to process passport applications, EHIC cards, etc. Now the DVLA is the mule that is being used to scam the public.

I also thought that the search engine providers had agreed to put the official GOV.UK site at the top of the listings page and relegate the parasites.

In the case of “dvladocumentservice” I consider that to be blatant passing off and misrepresentation and I am surprised that the DVLA has not taken action against it. The DVLA should also issue a public warning to drivers and vehicle owners to always use the GOV.UK website.

The message has to be – if you want a government service, go first and only to GOV.UK.

Member

John as far as they are concerned they are providing a service , now even if that service is a bit dodgy , their excuse is –they are there to help those not capable or have no time to do it themselves .
I am not disagreeing with you in its nature but the government seems to allow this sort of thing in other public areas as well.

Member
DerekP says:
16 January 2019

As a further twist, DVLA’s online applications website was actually offline yesterday.

One library customer visited us in the morning and again in the afternoon, to see if she could renew online. As the DVLA site was down, the best I could do was send her to the local post office…

Member

John wrote: “If you put ‘driving licence renewal’ into your browser window what comes up first [with Google Crome at least] is “dvladocumentservice” with the browser address “- – -.drivinglicencesonline.com”.”

I see the same with Firefox but with Safari this website does not appear until the second page of search results and in both cases the entries are marked “Ad”, a useful reminder that these are not the official site. (I don’t have Chrome on this computer.) If a site has been visited before, this may result in it appearing near the top of the list.

As you say, it’s important to look for GOV.UK when trying to access government services.

Member

Using Waterfox or Yandex the first four entries are the genuine article —
.gov.uk even got the genuine .postoffice.co .
Look guys it isn’t the browser its the Search Engine , I am using a European open source software designed search engine- none of the big boys who redirect –not one of the webpage entries is a scam URL website .
I also have blockers blocking dubious web servers etc .
There is more to life than the usual “suspects ” I can name several search engines but if you like Facebook /twitter/Youtube/etc then they are not for you .

Look even the next webpage has older-drivers .org a kosher website and -nidirect.gov –not one on each webpage is a scammer
If that isn’t enough guess what – warning URL by action fraud police uk

Member

Duncan – I understand that such companies are offering a service, and it appears that they do what they promise [albeit at an inflated cost], but in my view they should not be using ‘dvla’ as part of their url. Furthermore, they should state clearly that the customer can go direct to the DVLA free of charge.

We managed to see off the passport renewal sharks and the EHIC impostors [I hope so – there have been no complaints for a long time]; we now need to shut down the DVLA tricksters.

I have read your subsequent comment [beginning “Using Waterfox or Yandex . . “] but I cannot work out what you are trying to say. I would remind you that I already said “I also thought that the search engine providers had agreed to put the official GOV.UK site at the top of the listings page and relegate the parasites“. That’s all we are asking for – not to take down companies that offer an application service for £69.99 for some forms and a reply-paid envelope, so long as they make it clear and prominent that they are not official government agencies and that a free [or much cheaper] service is available direct via GOV.UK. Confusing the public with seemingly copycat nomenclature is not honest trading in my book.

Member

My point was that as long as the government “approves ” stuff like this it will carry on and get worse ,just saying -beware doesn’t seem to register in many of the public,s eyes , its like Amazon etc American conglomerates can do what they want .
If you listened to the rhetoric coming out from the government benches yesterday it sounded like and they said -“our “bestest” of friends ” etc “can do no wrong ” .
Its software programming deliberately done by Google etc that decides who is at the top of a webpage unless somebody has got a virus infection in their browser/computer .There was a big exposure on this a while back -money talks.

I dont want to get technical unless you dont believe me John but I can prove it.

Member
DerekP says:
17 January 2019

Using Google search on Chrome on my Chromebook and searching for “driving licence renewal, the first four urls returned are:

1) UK Driving License Photocard Renewal – FAQs | Post Office […postoffice.co.uk/uk-driving-licence-photocard-renewal-faqs ]

2) Renew your driving licence – GOV.UK […gov.uk/renew-driving-licence ]

3) Driving licences – GOV.UK […gov.uk › Driving and transport ]

4) UK Driving License Photocard Renewal | Post Office® […postoffice.co.uk/uk-driving-licence-photocard-renewal ]

So, at least for this Google PC, Google seems to be programming its search engine to behave respectably.

Member

Same on my Google Chrome.
Does the “Government approve” these commercial sites? If there is no legislation in place to prevent them operating there is little they can do, perhaps. Perhaps Which? can tell us?

Member

In Derek’s list above, the Post Office service entry shows ‘License’, but clicking the link gives ‘Licence’, the spelling normally used in the UK.

Member

I believe you Duncan – you don’t have to get technical or prove anything. I am not questioning the technicalities of the search engines, and, as Derek shows, the classifications are inconsistent.

The positioning of search engine results is relevant but not the main issue.

The main point is that the application assistance firms are trying to trick people; it’s a mental process, not a technical problem.

I am still mystified by your previous comment referring to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. What have they got to do with it?

Equally I cannot see what relevance the No Confidence vote in the House of Commons has to the question of driving licence renewal copycat website scams – which is the subject of this Conversation.

Member

I just popped a generic query about driving licence renewal at 70 into Google and the first entries were – in order –

gov.uk
gov.uk
age concern
Saga

so it looks fine. Haven’t tried any others.

Member

Its the thought patterns John or should I say dogma ,it is not in the governments interest to criticize American conglomerates so they are only behaving in their normal default position.
This means that any thought of”controlling them ” is pie in the sky ” -not going to happen , its funny this country thinks so much of America but now when dealing with US government websites and US big business ones UK/Britain isn’t mentioned but the EU is -IE- export market -US to EU and in many other areas the UK is sidelined -why ? because number one on the US searchlight is Germany not the UK.
Give them their due when it comes to money reality always counts .

Of course the UK public are being “tricked ” that’s the way the US advertising business behaved in the past –till they clamped down on it with legislation in the USA–but not here , do you see my point John?

Member

No, Duncan, I don’t. I remain baffled.

I wasn’t referring to any American companies but UK companies that exist in order to deceive people into spending too much money to renew their driving licence.

Perhaps you need to read the Intro again to see what this Conversation is about.

Member

I have just done the same and this time gov.uk comes first and second and the Post Office third.

Seeing Nos. 3 & 4 on your list, Ian, It is possible that search engines tailor the order to suit their knowledge of the user!

Member

Where do you think UK companies get their info from John? -the USA .
I have spent many years on American websites and know that that’s the way they behaved there long before it was introduced here so its very relevant.

More to the point the US did something about it but not here.

Member

John: yep; probably is. But no scam websites, anyway.

Duncan: you’ve told everyone numerous times about how many years you’ve spent on US websites and how encyclopedic your knowledge of the US is. But we’re not in the US. Most of us have no interest in theories of how the US wants to dominate everything UK-based and we’re perfectly capable of following our own lines of enquiry if we had.

The problem becomes more serious when US-based conspiracies are used as the basis for almost every comment made about anything.

Member

Ian I know you can’t help yourself but US conspiracy theories ? all in your mind .
I get my info from US engineering and technical websites , so you think I am lying when I say in years gone by the US was full of websites like the one complained about ?
Talk about Ostrich -head in sand how many kosher websites do you want me to post to prove my point ?
I will repeat the US brought out laws to protect its citizens against corrupt-devious /sly practices show me the legislation here that bans them in the UK ?

Member

duncan lucas says:Today 13:58
Ian I know you can’t help yourself but US conspiracy theories ?

I said “US-based conspiracies . There’s quite a difference.

the US brought out laws to protect its citizens against corrupt-devious /sly practices show me the legislation here that bans them in the UK ?

There are excellent consumer protection regulations, both as part of the EU and even better ones here in the UK. If you believe there are some unique US laws, perhaps you should provide links to their government website.

Member

Hi everyone,

Several comments posted earlier have been deleted from this thread. For the second time today, despite the advice earlier, the discussion has veered off into topics not relevant to this convo; the replies weren’t helping with William Bradley’s initial query; and descended into quarreling that’s simply not relevant. It might be useful in future to consider before posting: is my comment helping a consumer with a query or furthering the consumer debate?

If not, the community guidelines are clear: off-topic, unhelpful comments will be deleted. Please can we try to ensure comments remain on-topic, relevant and respectful?

Oscar

Member
DerekP says:
17 January 2019

Good decision – thanks Oscar.

Back on topic, there are actually folk who appreciate help when applying for official documents.

Free help is available at Gloucester Library, but that won’t suit everyone’s needs.

Hence fake DVLA websites may appear enticing and can claim they’re providing a service, when they’re pretty much just out to make a quick buck.

If what they’re doing isn’t quite illegal, it may be difficult to ban them, much as it is difficult to stop CPCW from selling pre set up laptops.