Driving licence renewal texts are not what they seem

Updated: 

busy highway at night

The DVLA has issued a warning about a new risk for British motorists. Drivers are receiving emails and texts that claim to be a driving licence renewal reminder, but have nothing to do with the DVLA.

If you click the link you could end up seriously out of pocket.


Warning

There is a steady stream of texts and emails being sent to British drivers, reminding them that their driving licence is up for renewal. Within the message is a link which takes you to a site where you are encouraged to renew.

A spokesman told AOL that the DVLA never sends these types of reminders by text or email, so "drivers should be aware that if they follow the link in these messages they will be directed to a third party."

Renewal

The idea of renewal itself is no scam. Most modern photocard licences are valid for 10 years, so you are legally required to renew them. Drivers over the age of 70 must do this every three years. The process requires you to complete a form, and pay a fee of £20 (there's no fee for the over-70s).

However, it's not the DVLA sending these texts and emails, it's a group of people who have worked out that they can use this rule to cash in. This is where those texts and emails come in. If you click the link, you'll be taken to one of the official-looking websites run by someone who has nothing whatsoever to do with DVLA.

They will charge you a fee to complete the form, then print it out and send it to you. Their official line is that when you input your details they will check it for errors and omissions, and that's what you're paying for. However, not everyone is aware of this when they hand over as much as £80, and many think that they are paying the DVLA fee.

Some of them also operate premium-rate phone numbers, so if you call with a query or to complain, you will be stung for even more of your cash.

In return for these steep fees, all the services offer is to fill out your application form and send it to you. At that point drivers realise that they need to send the form off to the DVLA, and that the £20 fee is still payable.

These sites are allowed to exist because they aren't doing anything illegal. As long as they don't claim to be the DVLA on the site, then they are selling an overpriced but legal form-printing service. The big players do all make this clear. It's just that users in a hurry don't always take the time to read the text, they just go straight to the Apply Now button.

Protect yourself

The best way to protect yourself is to check when your licence is up for renewal yourself. When you need to renew, you should do so online at gov.uk, where you can usually do the whole lot online and just pay the £20.

You should avoid getting to this site through a web search if possible. If you end up doing a search, you need to take the time to check where you have ended up by reading all the text carefully. There have been a number of reports of people going to these third parties through searches, because they have paid for an advert linked to that particular search term, and subsequently appear at the top of the page.

You may think that you could easily spot a third party site (especially as they all contain disclaimers), but if you are in a hurry it's surprisingly easy to miss it.

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