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Driving out scams and copycats

In an honest account, Caron Bradshaw, CEO, CFG, shares how she fell foul of a copycat website scam and shares advice on how to avoid making the same mistake.

I did something completely out of character today. Perhaps I can blame the menopause but, despite being someone who trains people on fraud, who trained as a lawyer and who always reads the small print and T&Cs before making a payment, it can happen to anyone.

It cost me more than £100 and made me feel stupid.

Rushing out

I needed ID to enter an event I was attending that evening and after turning the house upside down looking for my driver’s license, I realised I no longer had it. It dawned on me – I need to sort this asap – and so headed for my computer, opened up the browser and searched 'driver’s license replacement'.

Two results came top. I thought I clicked on the second one, the official website. But, somehow, I clicked on the top one. (I still don’t know how I did but, as I say, 'menopause' brain.)




This is what greeted me when I clicked the link:




So I clicked through and began the process of reapplying for my lost driver's license.

Granted, if you scroll right the way down on the page it tells you, in small print, that this is a service with X,Y, Z benefits.

Even further down it states that it's not affiliated with the DVLA. But within the window that you’re viewing, ‘above the fold’, it's not obvious.

The road to regret

I popped all my details in, passport number, driver’s license, debit card. Literally all my security info.

I was prompted by the site to tick that I'd read the T&Cs. At the back of my brain a thought lingered... “that's odd for the site…”, but my rushed head overrode it and I ticked the box. Like I say, out of character.

I saw the fee of £20. I even put in a bank code without clocking the full cost of £101! In tiny font, there was a one year subscription fee of £81.

I realised what I'd done. I tried to freeze the bank payment. Within 11 mins I had sent a cancellation email to the company. It took me that long to find out who to to contact and how to cancel.

The email conversation went along the lines of:

1 You've no right to a refund

2 Okay, we'll give you £16

3 Okay, have £30

4 £45 final offer!

They argued that they’d provided the service. I thought that I should probably accept the £45 and put it down to experience. And whilst it’s entirely legal, it's a rip off.

I'm not alone in falling foul to copycat website scams. According to this June 2021 article by Which Money 73% of online searches returned at least one rip-off site.

I like to think I'm clued up (I teach this stuff after all!). But on this occasion I had switched off/rushed/wasn’t thinking. These 'services' rely not only on uninformed 'victims', but on catching us out when we're in a hurry.

Had I realised I'd clicked the top link and not

If I'd spotted the absence of the official logo (but having used the DVLA form before, I can tell you it looks crude and the logo is not the first thing you see!)...

If I'd read the T&Cs before hitting submit...

...I'd not be writing this now.

If, if, if.

I got caught out because I wasn’t thinking, didn’t check and rushed. Others could believe that this was what they HAD to pay to replace a lost driver’s license, so even if they checked they could still be ripped off.

Imagine if I was vulnerable, disadvantaged, not tech savvy, etc. The company would argue they are not doing anything wrong. I'd argue that it's not obvious from the landing page they are not official. I'd also argue they should be required to make it clear that you can go direct for free.

So as I kick myself and lick the wounds to my pride, please watch out.

  1. Check you have clicked the link you think you have.
  2. Read the T&Cs even if you are busy!
  3. Slow down. This service didn’t save me time; I filled in the same info I would have on the DVLA form.

You can read more about DVLA copycat website scams here:

This is the official DVLA website for replacing a lost driver's license.

Speaking about government copycat websites in 2021, the CEO of DVLA, Julie Lennard, said: "GOV.UK is the only site where customers will find our official services, many of which are free. You may be charged a premium when using other websites offering services that are not connected to DVLA."

Lessons learned!

For content relating to charity fraud and protecting your organisation, visit our Fraud topic page.



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