/ 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
Mark says:
28 April 2021

Has anyone here received a renewed license after being scammed & if so is it legal?

Joe says:
29 April 2021

No i was also just foolish and got scammed this is crazy how they are allowed to carry on scamming people

Joe – We might just as well ask why people wanting to renew or change the details on their driving licence don’t use the official DVLA [GOV.UK] website or do what it says on any letter from the DVLA.

If I do a Google search for “driving licence” on my phone, Google presents two Ads for scam services before the DVLA site.

But if I do the same searching using DuckDuckGo or Brave, then the first relevant hit is the DVLA site.

So it seems that big ecommerce (Google in this case) is setting folk up to fail by feeding them adverts from scam service companies.

At least in this case I assume that the victims do ultimately get the driving licence they need, instead of fake RayBans.

Maybe they get driving glasses. 🙁 Mark did ask if people did receive their licence. It would be useful to find out because it would be easier to take action if customers are not receiving what they ordered.

Anyone who is applying for their first licence may be unaware of the DVLA website and will certainly not have a letter.

I think the placement of the advertisements for application services is wrong and I agree that the search engines are responsible for that. I also think the charges made by these services are far too high for checking each application, transferring the official fee [if any] to the DVLA, and forwarding the application for processing. There’s not much to check in the case of driving-licence renewals unless any of the licence-holder’s details have changed, and for renewals for the over seventies there is no fee to pay, so a charge of £5 maximum would seem to be appropriate to me if people want ‘peace of mind’. There’s not much to go wrong with this sort of application, unlike possibly with a passport application, and the DVLA would soon get back to the applicant if there was a query over their photo or address or date of birth, so these application services are completely unnecessary – but good money-makers for those behind them.

But I don’t think they fall into the category of ‘scam’. A ‘rip-off’, yes. But they don’t cold call you, or batter you into submission to take out an unwanted contract, and I believe they do what they say they will and put the application through to the DVLA.

People enter those websites by their own devising, and every one I have checked has a disclaimer making it clear that it is not linked to the DVLA. The disclaimers could be more prominent or better positioned, but, in the absence of any regulations requiring that, it isn’t going to happen.

One day it might be interesting to investigate the extent to which any real checking takes place. A test application with certain details missing or with incorrect details could be submitted but I don’t feel inclined to pay £79 or whatever on such an experiment. Let’s just get the message across that if you want something from the DVLA then you need to go to the DVLA website via GOV.UK and no other. Official websites have the Crown logo or the Royal coat of arms and have distinctive, and rarely imitated, language and typography.

I agree about the possible misuse of the term ‘scam’, John. I was once officially reprimanded for using the term ‘scam’ in a Conversation about a certain large electrical retailer charging £35 above the advertised price for laptops that had been set up. I found the reprimand useful because it made me think carefully about what I post on these pages. I suspect that in popular use the meaning of the word ‘scam’ now includes rip-offs.

Wavechange – I agree that anyone who is applying for their first licence might be unaware of the DVLA website and will certainly not have a letter. However, I don’t recall any complaints from that direction to this or any other relevant Conversation; I guess new learners will be helped by a parent or friend or do what many others do and go to the post office to pick up an application form and guidance leaflet. An information campaign using social media might be a worthwhile way of connecting with the specific generation that will be making their first application.

The appeal to the spoof service providers of the over-70’s driving licence renewal requirement is that it identifies a more vulnerable age group thus providing a rich database of people who might be ripe for picking on other issues [like home appliance cover, for example], and there is no fee to be transferred to the DVLA creating a financial paper trail.

A recurring theme in a number of Conversations is people’s lack of knowledge in dealing with matters such as scam purchasing, bank transfers, 3rd party providers as here, and other frauds or scams made simpler on the internet.

Life is all about learning how to deal with situations, whether via the internet or not. Some are willing to put the effort into learning. We need to help people be aware of the ways they can be tricked, not just specific examples but the precautions and questioning they need to employ before committing to parting with money and personal details.

Will some people want to learn? Would they bother to watch something on tv that was informative? Or will they just continue to learn the hard way? What should we do to educate them and who should do it? Simply compensating for ignorance or irresponsibility is no answer, and no way to tackle the problem.

Sorry John, scam is so much easier to type than rip-off, especially when I’m posting from my smartphone. In the past, our generous hosts here on W?C have sometimes objected to the use of scam for technically legal rip-offs such as weaselly extended warranties.

I doubt that anyone who who ends up out of pocket will be too bothered about the distinction between a scam and a rip-off.

In legal terms, scams might be illegal (but often under laws that are difficult or impossible to enforce) while rips-off are merely sharp business practices. But I’m sure they are both fundamentally wrong.

When I first worked for Serco, we had a strong services company ethic. We wanted to do things for people that they either would prefer that we did for them or that they would recognise we could do better for them than they could do alone. We also wanted to build up long term customer relationships, so we would never want to make a fast buck by doing over any customer. Our CEO at the time was Chris Hyman, a devout Christian who donates 10% of his income to his local church (see:-https://www.theguardian.com/business/2006/feb/24/columnists.guardiancolumnists ).

Your first licence will be provisional. I searched on applying for such a licence. Two ads before the government one. One made quite clear they were a checking service before submitting the application to the DVLA, that they are in “no way affiliated with the government. You can apply onto the UK Government website or DVLA to benefit from a reduced cost.” They listed the costs, showing their £79 fee. The other made no such declarations.

Why stop at the two adverts when immediately below is the .gov.uk listing headed “Apply for your first provisional driving licence“ ?

x

The COI once made a series of short films that served very well to educate the general public. Their repetitive nature and placement (during popular soaps) seemed to work well, for the most part.

But that highlights a serious point: some people, either though an accident of genetics or upbringing, simply cannot learn. This was brought home to me when I ran a choral group some years ago. In that group there was a lady who was illiterate; she was simply incapable of reading and worked in one of the few organisations that offered limited employment to those with severe learning difficulties.

In order to be in the group she forced herself to learn – by rote – every word of the music we used to perform. Her notional IQ was below 80 and yet there was no harder–working or reliable member of the group. The experience of working with her was truly humbling.

It’s all too easy for us (and I include myself) to assume everyone has the same capability to learn, The simple fact is that very many do not, and the figure is rather higher than we might imagine. Teaching people to avoid being scammed has to start at the earliest levels in school, although parents should lead the way.

I do not assume that everyone has the same ability to learn. My concern is to help those who do have sufficient ability. We do need to help those with the inability but in different ways. I am not clever enough to identify those ways but have suggested for banking that, where limited ability is recognised, limitations are placed on the way the account can be used, for example.

Cognitive ability or intellect is a complex beast. We still do not really understand what intelligence is and, as a society, generally underfund those agencies charged with safeguarding of the less able. I would find it very difficult, for example, to devise a way of identifying those with sufficient capability to operate in all normal situations and yet detect the fraudster. Although something of a pastiche, Sheldon’s character in BBT does illustrate how superior intellect and a general unawareness of how society functions can go hand in hand.

Ian is right about differences in the ability to learn and that is something that deserves to be acknowledged. Furthermore, our ability to learn depends a great deal on the subject and our interests. Motivation is also important and one reason why many people develop strong interests in areas of interest or where they can recognise self-achievement.

In the present discussion, being the victim of a driving licence rip-off or scam, I would hope that there is motivation to avoid losing money in this way. I suspect that being a victim could make some individuals more wary in future but have no figures to support this hypothesis.

It is vital that we find ways of helping members of society avoid financial and other pitfalls. Their expertise may be in other areas.

John – I agree that we have not had complaints from people applying for their first licence. I do not know whether this is not happening or if it is because Which? Conversation does not seem to be used much by young people.

I do not know if a social media campaign would help but I have suggested this approach as a possible way of tackling fraudulent advertising on Facebook, at least as an interim measure until the management deals with the problem.

When we are young we learn from our parents and siblings, as we get older peer learning becomes more important and eventually we are likely to help elderly parents/family/friends cope with life’s challenges.

High intelligence and being consciously unaware (unconscious), add to that a charismatic, magnetic charm, and you have all the hallmarks of a prospective anti-social personality disorder (ASPD).

This is a general term used by doctors that may include someone that sees others as objects they can use for his or her own benefit.

Recent research suggests a psychopaths brain is not like other peoples, which makes it harder for them to identify with someone else’s distress. A sociopath may have a conscience but it is considerably weaker than most, and often attributable to either childhood physical or psychological abuse by one or both parents, and in some cases a sibling. Both lack empathy and compassion.

It’s often a difficult decision for teachers to report behavioural patterns of child abuse victims, as it could involve children being put into care and the break up of the family union. It is also difficult for teachers to educate their pupils about unwanted approaches from manipulative adult predators, without instilling a fear so intense that it can have an effect on their future social interaction and friendships.

It’s also important to remember these people are mentally unstable and not consciously aware of their actions (unconscious).

Top of the list of professions most likely to attract ASPD are:

CEO’s
Lawyers
Media
Salesperson
Surgeon
Journalist
Police Officer
Clergy

Mark says:
29 April 2021

I agree not a scam just my mistake so I will bite the bullet once bitten twice shy we live & learn 👍

Hi Mark – Thanks for coming back. If you start with the gov.uk website this provides links to many official services. It would be great if the rogues could be put out of business.

Mark, thanks for coming back. It is good to hear someone who accepts they have made a mistake and doesn’t expect to be entitled to a bail out. I hope others will live and learn once bitten, and don’t lose too much in the process.

What surprises me is how some people are happy to move large sums of money without seemingly taking appropriate precautions and proper enquiries. Not all, of course. I’ve just moved money from a building society account to the linked bank account; I was sent a code to my (stored) mobile phone number before it went through. That seems pretty secure to me. Am I wrong? Confirmation of Payee works well as far as I can see; prior to that I transferred £1 to a new account to check I’d keyed it correctly and the right person had received it. Anyone could do that.

I wasn’t intending to stir up a semantic argument when trying to discriminate between a scam and a rip-off, and I certainly didn’t target Mark or Derek. ‘Scam’ is common usage for all sorts of exploitative deceit or trickery and it has been used in various senses throughout all the Which? Conversations that refer to the mercenary taking advantage of people by diverting them into some form of impulsive action that they will later regret.

I was imperfectly trying to suggest, however, that using the word ‘scam’ or ‘scammed’ can be a way of psychologically distancing the subject from any responsibility for their misfortune, because that affords some comfort to assuage their sense of personal mismanagement. It is interesting to consider the adage “a fool and his money are easily parted”; that used to be a common way of describing gullibility. Nowadays I don’t think we should call people who fall for scams “fools” because the sophisticated and manipulative conduct of the perpetrators of scams, within a narrow and criminal frame of activity, is not in the least measure socially justifiable; and also because to do so would ascribe a higher level of intelligence to the fraudster than to the victims who in most cases are not deficient in common sense or practical knowledge. To be open to deception is not a behavioural fault and in many ways is an indicator of an amenable disposition [normally considered a virtue].

teresa cooper says:
13 May 2021

I did use the web address on my letter, and felt sure I was on the official DVLA website, I did get my license but was charged £93! I am still in dispute with them and have been offered £30 back!

The following article on the BBC News website today exposes the failure of Google to control third party [rip-off] advertising on driving licence renewals and similar search results –
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-56886957

Interesting link, John. I wonder why there are not more joined up investigations. Was this an independent BBC investigation or was it done with Which?,for example?

@jon-stricklin-coutinho, Jon, there are a lot of organisations with overlapping work. Do Which? routinely identify those involved in a particular topic Which? are looking at and share resources and information? It would seem a sensible approach to me given the expertise and resources needed to do thorough investigations and to try to be influential.

We are still waiting for Which? to produce and publish any conclusions from its numerous Conversations about this particular form of deceit. At least the BBC tackled Google head-on about their failure to act and also had a dialogue with Martin Lewis [Money Saving Expert].

I am sorry to have to say that I place greater credence on the BBC’s investigatory work than on Which?’s. Obviously, it has a much higher platform from which to announce its results than Which? does, but having started something and called for evidence Which? just seems to walk away and seems reluctant to engage with the source of the problem.

A you say Malcolm, the BBC article shows that they have been exploring the problem in a comprehensive manner whereas there must be at least half a dozen Conversations covering the topic here – and some are quite old now; they all get mixed up and no unifying threads are drawn together to make a case for action.

Which? likes to absorb input from its hundreds of contributors but does not put much out in return. If it’s not careful it will lose any influence that it has and be seen to be generally irrelevant in the field of consumer action. The better staff will progressively leave and go to work for the media organisations which are now recognised as being more effective.

I have just gone to renew my licence as noticed it was put of date and stupidly Googled licence renewal and put all my personal details into the first link which came up.
(I am never this stupid but I. Blaming the serious lack of sleep I’ve had over the past few nights and the sudden panic of realising my licence was out of date)
I realised it wasn’t the dvla when i got to the payment page so didn’t submit any bank details but now they have all my personal details..ie drivers number, passport number, address etc etc and I’m terrified my identity will be stolen.
Any advice? I honestly can’t believe I’ve been this silly!

Graham Hunt says:
8 May 2021

Got scammed on this one as they use an add to disguise their evil intention .When money is involved then these companies hit the most vulnerable the elderly .They have no moral standards!

grrr, i got done too! a relatively bright intelligent professional that reviews and drafts legal agreements! caught whilst trying to multitask… i hate companies like this! http://www.driversvehiclelicense.co.uk, I assume I can’t benefit from any cooling off period as the service has now been delivered.