/ 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
Karen Shephard says:
17 February 2021

Like the rest of you l have been scamed £79 what are the chances of getting my money back very slim i have spoken to my bank and they have told me to read the terms and conditions to try for refound please please warn people of this scam!!!

Karen – I’m sorry to hear you were duped by a copycat website. Some people seem to have had a partial refund but usually there is no response to a claim from the perpetrators.

Your bank is technically correct – people should read the T’s & C’s before using websites, but if your bank or credit card issuer has processed a payment to a dodgy outfit then I think they should take action to withhold payments, reimburse users, and withdraw payment facilities from them; that would probably require cooperation from other banks and credit card companies.

Because the amount is less than £100, the chargeback facility under s.75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 is not applicable so realistically I doubt you will recover your loss.

As to publicising this deceitful practice, the warnings are out there and have been for several years and it has featured on Which? Conversation and on the Which? website a number of times. Other media have also picked it up from time to time. The internet search engine providers have not helped as much as they could to reduce the prominence of impostor websites in search results or to present them in distinctive ways [see previous comments here].

These rogue websites usually carry a disclaimer dissociating themselves from the DVLA or the government, but that is usually easily missed; the lesson is to read all the way through the entry page on any website and, if applying for something provided by the government, to only go via the GOV.UK portal or to look for the ‘.gov.uk’ address on the website header; if it doesn’t have that domain ending it’s not official.

Jaclient blundell says:
19 February 2021

I was also scamed and when I asked for my money back I was offered £30 back I will be more careful in future,the website is practically the same

Alex MacFarlane says:
29 March 2021

Was this from licence-online-uk? The same has happened to me, Ive read other reviews and if you threaten to take them to small claims court they’ll eventually give in, you have to keep fighting for it. Ive asked them several times for the owner of the company’s name and address so I can forward my court letters to them and they’re refusing to tell me.

I have just been scammed with a £93 bill……so what about the
license is it valid?
I’m stuck overseas and renewed online so haven’t seen it yet!!!!

Karen, I expect the license will be valid. If not, you’ll have legal grounds for a full refund.

These scam sites charge an arm and a leg for the “service” of submitting your licence application.

Jan Foster says:
18 April 2021

We too have paid £79.00. Not realising until a strange email arrived saying thankyou for sending payment to our company.
If you want to speak to us give us a call but there’s no contact info

I just paid £93 and received the same email…
Fuming (with myself)
I wish i could threaten with small claims court – but cant even find them ‘anywhere’ on the internet to even call them and ask for my money back!

S Evans says:
20 April 2021

I was scammed by license online for £93 yesterday and there was no information at all on there cost are charge if there had of been id of twigged i think its a discrace there getting away with this .

S Evans says:
20 April 2021

Same for me as well im jumping that this is being allowed.

Jennifer says:
20 April 2021

Did you accept the £30? I am.in the same position as you. I have informed my bank and they have cancelled my card.
I’m unwilling to accept the £30 refund at the moment as I’m hoping my bank can get a full refund for me.

Did you ask your bank to intervene and try to get you a refund?
I have had £113 taken from me by the same company. £34 for a provisional license that is unlikely to appear and a further £79. I thought I was on DVLA website.

S Evans – The following notice is prominent on the website –

“Drivinglicencerenewals.co.uk is a third party ‘check and send’ service. Applications can be made directly on the DVLA website without any service fee. We cannot assist with applications that are processed directly through the DVLA website. For full T&Cs, click here. Drivinglicencerenewals.co.uk is in no way affiliated with the UK Government or the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). “

Mikey says:
22 April 2021

Hey I fell for the same scam i think. After a long email exchange where I threatened to take them to small claims court several times I accepted a £50 refund. That way I lose £29 out of the £79 which is less than I’d have to pay to take them to small claims court if I could even find their info to begin with. I dunno if I could have gotten it all back but it felt like their final offer to me. Either way I’d advise keeping at it, don’t accept £30, a lot of their reasoning for not refunding me was blatentently dishonest.

Robin says:
23 April 2021

I have fallen foul of this scam on applying for my driving license renewal through the proper DVLA channel I am well over 70 they took 79£ from my account I have tried to get my money back they have offered me 30£

Robin – Could you tell us which website you used to renew your driving licence and why you thought it was “the proper DVLA channel”?

Some of the impostor sites are not being transparent enough about the fact that they are not affiliated to and have no connection with the DVLA. I am sure Which? would like to take this up with the internet service providers if there was evidence of a false description or deliberate deceit.

Ellie says:
23 April 2021

This has just happened to me do you know how to contact them ? I’ve tried googling but cannot find them furious with myself 😖😖it has taken me 5 days to get through to Dvla to check with them

Ellie – Which website did you use to make an application for renewal of your driving licence? I am assuming it was not a GOV.UK website.

If you made a payment on-line this will show up on your account. You should be able to check that on-line or by telephone to the card issuer.

michaela says:
24 April 2021

im devestated just happended to me and my chikdlrens food shopping …How can givernment wesite let these people do this! Just want to pay the fee i was expecting to not be scammed £79 🙁

Michaela – I can only assume you were not on an official government website. The web address of a government site always ends in GOV.UK

There are so many impostor websites offering related services so you have to be careful to check which website you are on when applying for anything.

Robert says:
26 April 2021

I got this scam and I was on the gov.uk site when clicking on renew licence button I was directed to contract @licence -online.co.uk

There does seem to be something strange on the official DVLA driving licence renewal website.

There is no “Renew licence” button but there is a “Start now” green button beneath which it says “on driving licence online”; this does not seem to be consistent with the style of the UK.GOV websites and is in a smaller font size than the rest of the body text on the page. I am wondering whether the DVLA site has been corrupted to divert applicants to an unofficial site. I did not go further into the process because I was not making a personal application but I have reported it for investigation.

Geoffrey says:
28 April 2021

You are nearly correct, except that they now send official letters by ‘Royal Mail’ all looks straightforward with the disclaimer as you state (£69.99)But how did they know I am due to renew after 3 years and my home address only the Gov,uk should know this.

I worry

Here is an article I mentioned earlier: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-48175430

Google is still putting links to copycat services at the top of the page, ahead of the link to the government website. Google will be receiving payment from these services. Nothing has changed in recent years apart from the adverts now being marked as such.

The marking of adverts in the search results is almost invisible – I don’t use Google but in my search engine it is a small and feint ‘AD’ in a feint box. I think adverts should be in a strongly contrasting colour and a different font so they cannot be confused with the search engine results.

What you see will depend on what software you are using, John. Here is a screen capture showing what I see on my computer:

?1

The adverts are search engine results so cannot be distinguished as you have suggested. I find the labelling very clear though at one time the ‘Ad’ label was in a yellow box, which was probably more obvious.

Thanks, Wavechange. I expected there to be differences in presentation between different browsers/search engines.

I just searched for ‘driving licence renewal’ on Google and saw that the ‘Ad’ prefix is in bold type and the general layout is clearer than on mine, nevertheless the official GOV.UK entry is still number five in the list.

In my early days of on-line activity I don’t think monetising the search function had occurred; now it’s prolific and, presumably, hugely profitable.

Wow, it does rather depend on your browser.

Firefox and Internet Explorer only return the government websites but the first four results in Opera are all ads for copycat sites. All searches were using Google as the search engine.

It’s fascinating to compare the results of different combinations of browsers and search engines. Clearing your browsing history may affect the results of searches because sites you have visited recently can be prioritised.

The web was wonderful in the days before the commercial world discovered it.

Search-engine hint (definitely applicable to Google, and probably to most others):
If you KNOW the top-level site name, you can restrict your search to that site, for example:

driving licence renewal site:gov.uk

And, whether or not you do this, the search result does show the site name (in smaller print, above the main description) – so keep your eyes open for this!

Yes, but all you need to do is go to the gov.uk website to be sure that you will not see a rogue site. Then click on ‘Driving and transport’. gov.uk provides a safe portal for official services.

paul shapland says:
24 February 2021

I have had a issue with them to. I renewed my wife driving licence on what I thought was the DVLA site, then once processed I realised it was not the gov site, I contacted them and I am still trying to get my money back, they charged me £93 for a £14 renewal. Conplent con.

I have just had the exact same experience they have replied to my email and seem to want a settlement? Can I ask if you recieved your licence ?

Kevin Howitt says:
11 April 2021

Did you eventually get your money back? I have just been scammed as well doing my sons provisional licence

Duped says:
1 March 2021

Been scammed today by driving-licence-Uk for an address change £39 furious!!

Identical to gov.Uk!!! Shouldn’t be allowed.

No phone number to call, emailed and no response.

Bank going to raise a dispute…..
so cross!

I threatened them with a solicitor and trading standards that has got me an email response from their compliance officer. Do not give up

Deborah Ryan says:
1 March 2021

I’ve just discovered I’m a victim of licence safe, took £99 out my bank… For a £21 replacement driving licence…. as I type I’m discovering what has happened… And yes they pop up first… Fuming!! 😩

I thought I was renewing on the government site as above .My payment is pending but my card company can not stop it . Feel so stupid and it`s cost me £93

Valerie Lam says:
17 March 2021

Yes, I was scammed too. Can someone please tell me how to claim back some money from them as I was also charge £93.00. Thank you

Hi Valerie, sorry to hear about this. It’s easily done as these scams are getting so close to the exact thing it’s really hard to tell. We do have a tool that can walk you through how to get your money back after a scam – if you do need any other guidance or want to speak to us directly you can do so via the contact form (both links posted below).

“How to get your money back after a scam”
https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-get-your-money-back-after-a-scam
“Contact form”
https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/

Steve says:
18 March 2021

I am more concerned about the personal data they have, driving license number, photocard Number, NI as well

Yes I fell for this £79 to change my address,normally it’s nothing. These people masquerading as the DVLA. are scammers, my bank The Halifax , fraud dept. Have informed me that they cannot raise an issue with this because of their wording. The small print seems to have fu…. a lot of us . How can the government and the mighty bankers allow this to go on?

Just had same conversation with the Halifax. They clearly know snout this do why arentvthey blocking them and protecting their customers??

Hi All
I nearly completed the online renewal form from a crowd called https://www.licence-online-uk.co.uk/renewal but realised right at the last minute and didn’t give them my card details!!! My fear is that they have all my personal details as presumably each page is sent back to them with my answers. Including my passport details, mothers maiden name, you know all the stuff. My question is should I be worried about ID theft or is it just the £79 they are after?
Thanks
Robin

Michael says:
11 April 2021

It is just the £79 they are after, but keep your eyes peeled. As people get wise to it they may get desperate and start farming information.

I don’t think they know their a**e from the elbows at the moment though.

Despite me thinking I was internet savvy I was conned. Both my wife and I were each scammed by this copycat website. Why on earth would I want to pay a third party an extra £79 for processing a completed application to renew my driving licence. I truly believed it was the DVLA website. I’ve lost so many nights sleep wondering how I could have been so stupid.

Michael says:
11 April 2021

Don’t feel too bad about it. Happened to me too and I like to call myself savvy, but that day a combination of things hit (including seeing police pulling over random people) and then I got tricked. I think it is a disgrace that banks and credit card companies allow it through. Who wants such a service for £90 when it is provided by the DVLA for free? Nevermind reading the small print, it seems banks and others think it is ok until they are affected.

Michael – How do you think a credit card company can stop the payment?

How do you think the banks and credit card issuers would be able to tell an unwise payment from a wise one?

If a look-alike web address will fool you it will fool them – and they don’t examine every transaction before it goes through or even afterwards.

From what was posted it seems a mistake was made that was recognised. Why should others have to refund the money unless they played a part in a fraud. If the problem was a service company simply offering to process an application for a fee that could be done cheaper direct with the provider then I consider that is the responsibility of the payer. However annoyed they might be with their lack of proper attention.

Michael says:
11 April 2021

Hi

I got scammed by something like this, but I scammed them back. Quite often they will send you basic dvla service not even recorded delivery. I asked the scammers for my money back, 3 times via email (technically in writing). They did not respond so I informed my bank they had not provided the service they quoted in their site.

Sometimes you have to be scum to fight scum.

Michael – And did your bank refund you the full amount you paid, or just the difference between the normal postage and the ‘signed for’ rate?

Did your bank’s action affect the scammers in any way [you said you scammed them back]?

I hope the banks don’t make a habit of refunding people who make the mistake of responding to dodgy adverts; it’s not as though the bank has been negligent. Having checked quite a number of the adverts that have tripped people up I can honestly say that they all made it clear it was not an authorised DVLA service and that it was possible to renew a licence free of charge via the DVLA official site.

Michael says:
11 April 2021

The bank refunded the full amount because there is no proof the scammers provided the service.

Thank you, Michael – But I feel compelled to ask in what way your bank contributed to the fraud [unless having customers who don’t look where they’re going with their money is a failure on their part].

Michael says:
11 April 2021

In case anyone has missed it, may I make a suggestion to anyone duped by these ads.

If they send you anything in the post and it is not recorded delivery, simply say you never received it. The site will then be forced to provide evidence of which there is none for standard post.

I expect some of them are watching this site and thinking about how they can watertight their operations…low lives.

So it’s alright to tell lies is it? I despair.

We stand here for fair trading and honest dealing. We will beat scammers by taking care, reading the adverts properly, and following the guidance plentifully given in the media and by Which?.

It’s one of the quickest and easiest things to do on the internet, finding the DVLA website. It’s almost as quick to get there by putting ‘driving licence renewal’ in the browser.

Got scammed by Licencesafe .co.uk Same story deliberately passing themselves off as D.V.L.A .
Forms and website looks the same until you pay then you get stung when you pay.
Contacted D.V.L.A. several times but they weren’t interested as it a third party website even though i explained what happened and how they were doing it. now in the hands of my bank.
Surely this is fraudulently obtaining money by deception!

Anthony – It is unfortunate that you were deceived by the Licencesafe website but it is nothing like the official DVLA website. It also has the following text in bold letters on the front page –

“Licence Safe is in no way affiliated with the government. You can apply onto the UK Government website or DVLA to benefit from a reduced cost.”

The Licencesafe website explains the services it provides and, as I understand it, they do perform what they say they will in processing your application. The DVLA cannot be held responsible for applicants’ wrong choices. It will be interesting to see how your bank deals with your case.

There will always be people mimicking government services for extra money so consumers have to take great care and look for the GOV.UK indicator in the web address.

Geoff says:
17 April 2021

What I don’t understand is what they use the information (NI number, passport numbe , mothers maiden name etc) for
Could somebody please enlighten me.

Geoff – Those identifiers have a value in the criminal world as, together with other personal data, they can enable unauthorised access to people’s accounts which opens up a number of harmful consequences from ordering goods to stealing money and much more in between.

What people’s accounts do you mean?

What harm can they do. My wife has cancelled her debit card so they can’t spend anything on that can they?

Geoff says:
17 April 2021

What people’s accounts do you mean and what harm can they do?

So I ordered my daughters provisional Sunday! Only realised today they had took £113 not the £43 and I genuinely thought I was on the gov website I’m so annoyed right now that’s part of her birthday driving lesson money! So I’ve paid for them to send me a form that’s free! Anyway I’ve contacted my bank to charge back so fingers crossed. Again like other worried about the personal information given NI and passport number! Can I ask 1 bit of advice on the form there is an application number so do I just leave this and get a new form from the post office and start over again or send this form to DVLA?

Hi Kelly – Your daughter can apply online or by post, the online application being cheaper: https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence It would be worth contacting DVLA in case they do receive an application from the dubious business you used.

I hope you recover your money. GOV.UK is a safe place to start when looking for official websites.

Kelly – Some others who have reported here that they have also been deceived have managed to obtain a partial refund from the firm they used. If you act quickly you might be able to claim something back, but businesses that trade on deception are not likely to be particularly forthcoming and would probably claim that they have fulfilled the service for which you have paid them.

I have just been scammed by licence-online.co.uk. What concerns me more than the fee is that I have disclosed personal information including address, DOB, NI number and passport number. How can I be sure that that information will not be used for illegal purposes in the future.

Martin – I don’t think there is any way in which you can be sure your personal identity details will not be used. I presume you contacted licence-online in the first place so you were deceived rather than scammed. Their main purpose is to process people’s licence applications and I hope that is all they did in your case, albeit for a ridiculous fee.

Licence-online publishes the following disclaimer on their website; not until the bottom line does it confirm that the firm is not connected to or affiliated with the DVLA or GOV.UK.

Our Service collects and processes on your behalf the required driver information to complete changes to your driver licence. The information you supply is scrutinized for accuracy prior to submission. We comply fully with the Data Protection Act to ensure that the information collected is only that which is required to process your application, thereafter it is securely deleted from our systems. You will receive e mail notifications that we have received your request and also on completion. The processing charge of £55 plus DVLA fees (where applicable) are captured securely on completion of the form on this website. They appear as a pending charge on the card payment used and are not charged until the application is successfully processed. If we are unable to process your application the pending charge is cancelled, and you will be advised by e mail. Our service is not connected to or affiliated with the DVLA OR GOV.UK.”

If you contact the DVLA quickly you might be able to stop them processing your application then your pending charge will not be taken from your bank or card account.

David says:
25 April 2021

I’d like to join the ” I’ve been duped club “. I paid £99 for the replacement of a lost DL on April 19th.
Only realised the scam when I check my bank account. ( which was also the point at which I discovered how much I’d paid )
Payment was to ” Applications Online Ltd. This company it seems was registered as ” Electronic Check Ltd. ” until April 2020.
An enquiry to DVLA has confirmed that they have no connection with this one man band.
To cap it all I’ve now found my lost DL !

All of the people who paid £93 did they actually have the license renewed?

Jan Gillingham says:
28 April 2021

This has just happened to me 79 pounds its cost me .I was unaware that renewal at over 70 was free I spoke to them to give my details.They asked for post code which I gave .I suspect what happened was multiple addresses came up because I live in a post code that has lots of flats They then asked for first line of address My D/L never arrived and I was suspicious because with their search code it was invalid.When I contacted DVLA and gave details they told me it had been sent to wrong address and the address on the licence was the same. Even if I could have retrieved it would be useless to me .
The amount of time and stress this has caused me has affected my health .I’m sure I conversed with someone when filling out form but they now tell me I filled out form myself Are they really saying I put in wrong my own address where I have lived for 13 years and if I did lol what was I paying for .

Sasha says:
28 April 2021

This has just happened to me and i realised once i saw the pending payment of £93 in my bank. Ive tried to stop the transaction with my bank and they cant. They have cancelled my card and said i can raise a dispute for the money after 24hrs. Im more concerned about all the details i gave them ie, maiden name, dob, passport number. Feel so stupid. Im normally quite savvy too. DOH!!!! The company in question have then emailed me to say sorry we cant renew your license so they will refund the £14 gvnt fee but will still charge the £79!!! Ive requested a full refund. Lets see what happens!