/ 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
Brian Thompson says:
21 August 2019

Still waiting to hear from driving services – very quick to remove money from my account even though licence renewal is FREE.

Watch out for this company:

Myvehicles info.com

This is a copycat website pretending to be the DVLA. They are charging £89 for licence renewal, DVLA charge £20. After realising that I paid a copycat, I immediately cancelled my order and requested a refund, after 6 weeks still awaiting refund”….

Charlie says:
19 December 2019

Hi Barry. I’ve just accidentally used them too! Feel absolutely gutted. Did you ever get your money back? Stressing out

Charlie / Barry I also fell for this and requested a refund immediately to which after a week they agreed to but its now 25th Feb (8 weeks) and still nothing so I am looking to take legal action

Why do the DVLA need to know my marital status and NI number
This info has nothing to do with my licence

This comment was removed at the request of the user

just been to applydvladrivinglicence.co.uk entered all details include NI and passport should I be concerned ? Cancelled before the end but this is a scam site

From their website, they seem to be a UK based service company see:-https://applydvladrivinglicence.co.uk/privacy-policy.php

So, if there are properly registered for the GDPR and legitimate under UK law, you could contact them as a data subject and ask them to erase any records they now hold on you.

I think these copycat sites operate from the basis that UK law does not prevent you from paying a third party to do something that you might otherwise do yourself, but in practice these sites don’t provide any added value as they make you do almost all the work and then charge a substantial fee nonetheless.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Hi i hame just been scammed by drivinglicence[dot]com i paid 69 because my son lost his licence, i have tried to phone them and my emails are not being accepted, is there anything i can do x

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to remove an email address. Please don’t post personal contact details (either your own or others’) as this helps protect people’s privacy. For more information see the Community guidelines]

Best advice here Lesley is to contact your bank or credit card provider and ask to either do a chargeback (if you paid by debit card) or a Section 75 claim (if by credit card). Here’s our full guidance: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-get-your-money-back-after-a-scam

These scammers are cunning. They know the threshold for a s.75 Claim [Consumer Credit Act 1974] is £100. A chargeback claim might be successful but credit card issuers seem to process cardholder claims quicker that banks process customers’ claims.

claire says:
14 January 2021

I’ve done the same thing, do we need to be concerned?

I have just been almost scammed by DVLA Licence Apply:

https://dvlalicenceapply.co.uk/index.php

I did not pay give them my bank details luckily as the website crashed when I entered my passport number, but I did give them my NI number, Passport number, driving licence number, mother’s maiden name etc etc.

Should I be worried and if so what should I do to ensure I am not at risk of having my identity stolen or some other cyber fraud?

Christine Whyte says:
14 October 2020

I’ve done the same earlier this week now worrying about identity theft .

karen says:
10 November 2020

i have done it been in touch with bank after paying 69 pound they say I have to weigh 3 weeks before they can do any thing now today I am going to do my licence on the Gov site then cancel my card ect then get in touch with the bank again. Never have I done this but my son has he died 2 years ago riding for the BHF. now I shall be out of pocket if I wait for the bank to take over, they have not put a stop on my card. Terrrible people are about when things are not good at this moment.

Helene says:
16 November 2020

Me too. Gave them my passport number, NI number, debit card details. I managed to cancel payment with bank but am now terrified of ID theft and don’t know what to do 😢

mrs. una kearnon says:
12 December 2019

I WAS CHARGED £77 to get a renewal photo licence, still waiting, although I received a confirmation of my order and told hat they would use my passport photo

Niyaz Butt says:
30 December 2019

I have had no respond from them for my refund. I thought i was on gov. website and paid £14 for a renewal of my licence instead got charged £89.

Just applied for a change from paper licence on licenceapply.co.uk alarm bells when I was redirected to a Santander site to pay £75. I didn’t proceed. Went on to government site and paid £20. Still a bit concerned about the amount of personal details regarding passport number etc I filled in before coming off first site.

Karen, this site clearly states:

Exchange paper licence for a photo card
Price:£77.60
(Official DVLA fee £20, Our service fee £57.60)
Licence Apply and https://www.licenceapply.co.uk/ are not affiliated with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the UK government, GOV.UK or any official body. We provide a independent checking and applying service, which cannot be obtained from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. If you apply directly with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, there will be no checking and applying fee payable. The £77.60 price includes the £57.60 service fee payable to https://www.licenceapply.co.uk/ and the £20.00 fee due to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. By using this website you agree that you understand this disclaimer..

Not very good English but it does spell out its terms.

Searching on “driving licence change from paper to card” brings up this as the first result:
https://www.gov.uk/exchange-paper-driving-licence

Official sites have .gov.uk, not .co.uk or .com.

Karen says:
16 April 2020

Just got caught with http://www.uklicenceservice.com. £40 to change driving licence address. Hoping I get my money back but more worrying is that they now have my NI & passport number etc. Argh! Wish I had been slower & checked first

Mark says:
2 June 2020

We just got caught the same way with http://www.uklicenceservice.com , also for £40.
We cancelled within 5 minutes. Did you get the money back? Or have any other issues as a result of doing this?

Hi Karen
My daughter got caught the exact same way and I am now worried that they have her NI and passport number. What did you do or was there any outcome.
Grateful for any advice you can give or anyone else can.
Thanks.

l used a site called Call sign Ltd, ending up paying £89 and no licence, took my money within two hours ! l have cancelled order, but they have all my details, now l am worried monies will disappear or likewise other things will occur.

Jon, sorry to hear you were caught out, but what led you to use Call Sign in the first place?

You should notify the credit card you paid with or your bank if it was by debit card immediately if you haven’t already done so.

If I google ‘renew driving licence online’, the first website in the results is http://www.gov.uk the official government website .

I went to DVLA site and
got directed to this site. and then notified Bank, Alfa.

That’s strange. I have just put “DVLA” in the browser and the entry that comes at the top of the list is the official GOV.UK site for the DVLA with all its subsidiary functions. This was via the Bing search engine. No mention of Call Sign on the first four pages of listings.

I also tried “Callsign Ltd” but apart from various sites giving company information I could see no references to services provided or assistance with licence renewal.

Jon – When you went to the DVLA site, was it the official GOV.UK site for the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency? You said you got directed to “this site” – did you mean the Callsign Ltd site or to this Which? Conversation site? If you first went to the official GOV.UK site and were redirected from there, then I feel you should report it to the DVLA because it sounds as if some unauthorised and illegal re-routing is going on.

Confirmed. I tried DVLA in both upper and lower case, but with the same result.

It directed me straight to the Call Sign after going to the Dvla site. When l applied, submitted, then the site disappeared until l went back to see what was going on.

Hi Jon, Thanks for coming back here.

Are you able to replicate how you got to the Call Sign website?
What you searched for?
What you clicked on?

If you put spaces in a link, it won’t get held for moderation.
https://www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence

Yes, that was the very same site, then l got re- directed to another page so l filled it out, after submitting my details, then realised it was not Dvla. I cancelled but they still took my money within two hours ok?

I’ve just gone through the procedure and it kept me on the DVLA site. That suggest one of two possibilities:

1. You have malware or a virus.
2. You made an inadvertent error.

When you said “When l applied, submitted, then the site disappeared until l went back” can you explain exactly what happened? One other thing: you initially said

“l used a site called Call sign Ltd, ending up paying £89”

but you told us you used DVLA and were redirected. Can you confirm which it was? Call sign Ltd doesn’t exist, although Callsign Ltd, does.

Hi Jon, I have also tried it on that site and not getting redirected.

Ian may be correct but I wonder if Callsign is a legitimate partner of DVLA a bit like Verisign whenever you use a credit card on the internet.
https://www.callsign.com/sectors/government/

As Ian said, if Jon has picked up some malware, eg in his Web browser, then simple Web searches can end up in dodgy places.

I was searching the internet on Google yesterday, that is 12/10/2020, to find how could I let DVLA know about my change of address. First entry that came up upon my search result was of ukapplydrivinglicense[dot]com
I filled the application form online and gave away all of my details including my NI number and my passport number etc. cos I thought that was the procedure and in the end I was charged £49.99 . But next day when I spoke to friends about it they said that change of address with DVLA should cost nothing and that I had been scammed. I contacted my bank and I have sent an email to the licensed help ltd the company that charged me that money requesting a refund and destroying my detail. Hope I get to my money etc.

[Moderator: we’ve removed the hyperlink to the site mentioned as it is potentially a scam site. For more information on spotting scam websites, see Which?’s guide on spotting fraudulent websites]

BarryB says:
5 December 2020

Just got caught out by “UK licence renewal online”. Not a copycat service, they say they are 3rd party. Charged £54 for the licence, for an over 70s, plus admin fee. I am doubtful if they are genuine.

Hi BarryB,
Sorry to hear you were caught out, I can’t find a site called ‘UK licence renewal online’. It is worth remembering all official government websites are gov.uk and look like this:
https://www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence-at-70

From what I can see, it is free to renew a driving licence when you reach 70.

I presume that this is the site that Barry is referring to: https://ukdrivinglicencerenewalsonline.co.uk

From the bottom of the page, in small print: “This application site is independently administered and has non governmental or DVLA affiliation. It does however forward necessary application information to the DVLA. This information is subject to strict privacy provisions and controls. We are a third party ‘check and send’ website that helps to expedite your driving licence renewal. We charge an administration and service fee along with the DVLA fee all inclusive. You may submit your information directly to the DVLA portal or attend a DVLA office and you will be charged an application fee.”

As Alfa has said it’s important to use the official GOV.UK site. The GOV.UK portal is the the safest way to access other government services: https://www.gov.uk

I would like to see paid-for services banned when it is simple to use government services.

Janet says:
8 December 2020

I received a letter that I thought was from the DVLA department. It was for my licence renew as I was about to turn 70. I completed a form that was within, and the usual medical form that the DVLA send out were included. and returning the forms in the provided addressed envelope, I found a charge on my credit card statement for £79.00. This was taken by a company called ‘Licencesafe.co.uk’ Clearly a company pretending to be the DVLA. I did contact my credit card company and they are looking into it. These companies may not actually be illegal, but they are being deceptive.

Sheila says:
8 December 2020

Sheila,
Yes I forgot to put uk after gov. and ended up filling the form as set out like DVLA form. Luckily I saw that there was no charge to pay on my letter from DVLA so didn’t fill payment form but they have id etc; which is worrying. Couldn’t edit the form as it was wiped off, apart from giving my details at the end. Same address – applylicence safe.co.uk. Hope you get it sorted.

Trevor says:
11 December 2020

I too have just fallen to this scam. I am very concerned about the amount of information the now have about me mainly my NI number, this site was called licencesafe I phoned my bank straight away to cancel my credit card but they said they could not stop the payment of £79
I emailed licencesafe to cancel the contract, they agreed to give me a refund of £39 I don’t expect to get this but I am going to contact my bank again to see if I can claim under under section 75 but more concerned over my information

John says:
9 January 2021

The same thing has happened to me, went on wrong website , licence safe, and I paid £79 after giving them passport number, national insurance, credit card details. Contacted credit card company and they said I must wait 30 days before claiming money back. Emailed Licencesafe and told them to refund money. Tried then to complete forms again for 70+ licence on correct gov.uk and was thrown out probably becuase an application had been made earlier.

SueB says:
3 February 2021

Who says you have to be over 70? I am 63, for work use computers daily (including for secure payments and with secure government sites) but here I am. The awful nausea of having passed over all my personal identifiable information is indescribable. Apart from the anxiety, my main emotion has been SHAME because it was me who entered that information and did so believing I had got through to the DVLA. I even thought, “That seems rather a lot of money for this” but because my thoughts were distracted, failed to check. It is horrible. Because of Covid, none of the Govt departments are answering their phones in person, and my wait time for the credit card fraud number was over 30 mins, but I have now cancelled the card and shall contest the payment as soon as it has cleared. I can’t do anything about having given my mother’s maiden name, my place of birth, or NI number. But I will speak to the Passport office and DVLA asap to apply for new ID. Over the top? Perhaps. But, for work reasons, I know the full implications of ID fraud. Why on earth the Govt doesn’t regulate these companies is beyond me.

I also thought I was renewing my over 70 license and gave all my details ,fortunately I got out of it when they wanted payment,,but am worried about ID fraud.is there any thing I should be looking out for?

Kev W says:
8 February 2021

My wife’s just been got by licencesecure / licencesafe. I happened to look at the credit card statement today, £93 taken last Thursday, and I remembered she’d renewed that day. She swears the site didn’t say £93 but showed £14, but having just checked the site I guess it did show her £93. Really blooming annoying as she said she wouldn’t go through the Post Office as £21 was too much!
What’s the chances of getting anything back?
We’ve emailed this morning, twice, asking for a refund today.
It was paid on credit card, can I cancel through them?

Kev – I expect it is too late to cancel the credit card payment as the transaction would now have cleared. Moreover, my view is that it is unlikely that your wife would receive any compensation from her credit card issuer for the £93 payment, first because it is outside the scope of the s.75 protection under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 [the threshold is £100], and second because it does not appear that any fraud or deception was involved.

It is unfortunate that your wife selected this website to renew her licence but the home page for “licence secure” does give all the information needed to establish that it is not the DVLA and that there are high fees for processing the different types of application [the charges are set out in respect of each category].

There is a general statement on the website as follows: “We are in 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 for additional benefits. The disclaimer could be clearer and placed more prominently, but it is there.

The existence of parasite processing agents has been flagged-up multiple times here and in the media generally and plentiful advice has been issued to always look for websites with the GOV.UK address when seeking government services. Search terms like ‘DVLA’ or ‘driving licence renewal’ would have shown the official site at the top or close to the top of the search results. I seem to recall that the official website address is stated on the reminder notification issued by the DVLA.

I searched for the licencesecure website and the anti-malware software on my computer warned me that it could be a phishing site – one that has been set up to collect personal information.

As John says, always use official websites for government services.

That is yet another risk with doing things on-line with these pretend government services: the anonymous individuals get their hands on a large amount of personal information – name, address, date of birth, credit card numbers, driving licence number – which has a value in the criminal world. The value of this data is in addition to the inordinate amounts of money they make for a simple clerical processing function that can either be done by the applicant themselves for the price of a postage stamp and an envelope or, for added peace of mind over the documentation, can be transacted at the Post Office for a small service charge over and above the licence fee.

I did a Google search for ‘driving licence renewal’ and the official website came fifth in the list. Presumably the other sites have paid to have a prominent listing. I wonder if Google thinks it’s ethical to host sites that are exploiting the public.

What is ethical about Google? They are there to make money and this is just advertising revenue. A bit like Currys PCW being given an exclusive link for those who might want to buy certain products.😋🥴

That’s odd. I’m sure Google agreed to remove all these sponsored (AdWord) links to pseudo-government agencies a couple of years ago. But I’m not going to go chasing up that report at the moment. Been busy kicking irresponsible “fake” Covid-19 alerts (which are genuine NHS), now in moderation and already a little fed up with Which?

If I Google ‘driving licence renewal’ I only see the genuine DVLA site. Are you accessing Google search via another browser that is overlaying its own ads maybe?

Found it: Independent 02 March 2014 –

“Internet giant [Google] to take down sponsored adverts for sites that were not offering valid services including applications for passports and driving licences”

These sites also have a problem with more recent GDPR legislation, as it is illegal to process your personal data without making a full and proper disclosure about who they are and how they intend to use it:

“By allowing Scammers-R-US to process your personal data, you acknowledge that we will be charging you a whacking great fee for basically doing nothing much at all, other than to share it with the official government agency.”

Here is a link to the article mentioned by Em. Which? receives a mention. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/google-urged-remove-copycat-websites-charging-substantial-fees-government-services-search-rankings-9162933.html

I used a search engine to do a Google search, and the adverts are prominently marked.

The first 4 results before the official site were all 3rd parties with a small “ad” in he top left.
After 7 years you’d think more could have been done. Many people may overlook or not think about “ad” as something to avoid.

In my browser, when searching for ‘driving licence renewal’, the official GOV.UK site comes third after websites listed as ‘drivinglicencerenewals’ and ‘optionalcheckingservice’ [dot UK in both cases] which are both fee-charging independent processing agents. The second one has this message in a banner on the home page “This non-official website is an optional checking service with no governmental or DVLA affiliation. Applications can be made directly on gov.uk without our service fee of £69.99. Both these entries are preceded by a tiny ‘AD’ in a box; it is presumably the fact they are designated as advertisements that gives them priority over regular search engine results. This seems to be a sneaky way of getting round the intention to put official government websites at the top of the listings. Other similar websites also have the ‘AD’ legend but are scattered throughout the search engine results and include many repetitions.

Yesterday I was done, as far as I knew I was on the official GOV.UK website, I put in all my details, at no point did I see that I wasn’t on the official website. I was never told how much I would be charged so I just assumed it would be £14, it was processed by licencesafe and it was only at payment stage that this was used. I checked my bank this morning and noticed I had been charged £93. I’ve contacted all in question. I think someone at the DVLA/GOV.UK is on a back hander.

I suggest you look at the browsing history on your web browser, Von. That may help you find the site that you visited. I very much doubt that is the government website.

The ‘licencesafe’ website appears to be different from other processing agents and is more like a form of insurance and personal service in return for an annual subscription. It offers a number of administrative services, ‘benefits’ and ‘protections’, including a driving licence application service. The annual charge is £79 and this is prominently displayed on the home page. There is no disclaimer that dissociates the site from the official channels but that is possibly not required because submitting applications on behalf of subscribers is only one of its several functions.

It is possible that Von was on a completely different copy-cat website, pretending to be the official DVLA one, that used ‘licencesafe’ as the processing agent. I agree with Wavechange’s suggestion to check the browsing history. If there has been any deception due to falsehood or omission it would be useful to report it here or direct to Which? for consideration or referral to the appropriate regulator.

Brush says:
12 February 2021

Hi, been scammed by licence secure/safe offered £40.00 reimbursement from the £79.00 paid.
Having read through the posts i don`t hold out much hope. My question is on the driving licence renewal application it says go to gov.uk/renew-driving-licence-at-70 which i did. At the top of course was the licence secure website. Why do they not just put DVLA on application form which will take you straight to their site.

3

Brush – You say that you were “scammed by licence secure/safe”, but actually you were misled by your search engine since you selected the copy-cat website by clicking on the the first site you saw at the top of the list ignoring the key words “gov.uk”. Previous comments here have referred to the failure of internet service providers to ensure that prime placement is given to official government websites, but they are avoiding this convention by regarding the listing results of some non-governmental agencies as advertisements – when you looked at the list you probably did not notice the symbol ‘AD’ in a little box preceding the web address; it is tiny, feint and easily missed.

Your suggestion of changing the address shown on the DVLA literature is a good one but the government is trying to drive all contacts through the GOV.UK portal where there are then numerous menus for the different services and functions.

I am glad you have got half your money back but I think they could have been more generous and offered at least £60. I doubt it would be worth asking for more; most of these copy-cat sites ignore complaints and refund requests.