Customers who have been duped by copycat websites have been offered some hope as the government has pledged funding to crackdown on such roque traders. The National Trading Standards Board has been given an extra £120,000 to investigate sites pretending to be official government channels
What are copycat websites?
- Copycat websites are those which offer services appearing to be from government departments or local government but are not the official site.
- These sites will charge a fee for their service which is typically just forwarding online forms and applications to the correct location.
- Such sites will invest money in online advertising and tools to get them ranked highly on search engines, often higher than the official site.
- The website addresses of these sites are normally similar to the official site and often have a similar look and design.
How can I spot a copycat website?
- Copycat websites are not breaking the law but they must have a disclaimer on their website stating their are not the official site, however this is typically hidden away in the small print
- If you were directed by way of an online advert it is likely that this is a copycat as official sites do not advertise
- Check the web address and make sure it ends in '.org.uk' any other ending means it is not the official site
What are typical services offered by copycat sites?
- Passport applications
- Birth and death certificates
- Fishing licences
- Driving licences
- Driving tests
- Congestion charge
- European Health Insurance (EHIC)
How can I obtain a refund if I have used a copycat site?
- Contact the site and insist on a refund if you feel you have been misled
- Ensure you have details of the date you used the site and how much paid
- Report the copycat site to the relevant government department or local government organisation
Image source: Grant Cochrane