More than 200 comments have been made on our Conversation about copycat websites. These misleading websites have left some of you up to £1,000 out of pocket. The good news is that something is being done.
Which? Convo commenter Angela told us about how she was duped by a copycat website:
‘I have just been caught by Tax Return Gateway, so was my husband. We have paid out £1,000 to them unwittingly as we believed we were logged onto HMRC.’
We’ve been working behind the scenes, sharing your complaints with the Government to convince them to take action. It’s now been announced that these sites will face increased scrutiny, with Trading Standards being given an extra £120,000 to specifically crackdown on sites that ‘try and palm themselves off’ as government sites.
Consumer minister Jenny Willott said that such sites needed to be ‘stopped in their tracks’ and that this money will better equip Trading Standards to identify, investigate and take enforcement action. It was also announced that the Government will continue to work with the Advertising Standards Authority, search engines and us at Which? to raise awareness of the threat posed by misleading sites.
Search engines and copycat sites
Claire is another commenter who was duped, paying extra to renew her European Health Insurance Card (EHIC):
‘I am still so, so mad with myself. I am usually very savvy. However, I was under a huge amount of pressure at the time with other issues. I was due to go on holiday, card had expired… in a rush… googled to find the website to renew and just signed up to renew my card and paid the money!!!’
Tracy was fooled into paying £116.50 extra:
‘Ashamed and enraged to say I’ve been duped this month by uk-passport.net for £116.50! Looked online to renew my passport and apply for my son’s first passport. Clicked on a link on my tablet from Google to do so and was taken to what I assumed was an official page, even cites the official phone number as ‘contact us’. Applied and paid for both passports (stupidly). I am gutted and annoyed with myself for being so stupid to fall for this. I’m usually so vigilant!!’
As far as people finding copycat sites high up on search results, Google has already taken action, with their head of policy Theo Bertram explaining what they’re doing to remove copycat sites from ad results in a guest post here on Which? Convo.
Thanks to all of you who shared your experiences with us. We now want to see an immediate crackdown on copycat sites, along with a review of legislation and any offending sites immediately removed from the internet.