Copycat website warning

Sites con people into paying for services that are freely available from government

Websites posing as government pages duping people into spending huge fees

The internet can be a dangerous place. An epidemic of copycat websites means people need to be extra careful when entering personal details online.

These copycat websites deceive consumers into thinking they are accessing an official government site.

People trying to order official documents such as passports or book driving tests are being duped by these websites masquerading as legitimate government services, exaggerating what they can provide and underplaying what consumers can get for free or at a lower cost from official sources.

The websites are very well disguised, with official-looking logos and seemingly authentic addresses. Some even have links to genuine government websites, giving them an even more authenticity.

According to the Mirror, the small print reveals that they are in fact privately owned and often do no more than forward a simple form to official channels in exchange for fees that range from £20 for a TV licence to more than £1,000 for an income tax return.

Labour MP Chris Evans has called for a Commons debate on the issue.

"Copycat websites are a part of a growing industry which exists purely to trick the public out of their hard-earned money.

"It thrives by using underhand methods to fool people into paying way over the odds for government services. In many cases the victims are too embarrassed to report being ripped off or simply do not know where to go to complain," he said.

Read How to spot rip-off copycat websites to find out how you can stay safe online.

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