Aberdeenshire Trading Standards are warning consumers about copycat websites after a recent rise in complaints.
These websites can appear genuine and give the illusion they are official or authorised when this is not the case.
Warning people to be vigilant, Aberdeenshire Council’s Chair of Infrastructure Services Committee, Councillor Peter Argyle said: “Most government services are moving online and consumers should ensure they use the official Government website.
“By taking a few sensible precautions and following the Trading Standards advice, consumers should avoid falling foul of these copycat websites and continue to keep their money and personal information safe.”
Copycat websites offer services which are available from Government departments and include applications for passports, driving licences and European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC).
Copycat websites usually offer to provide a ‘check and send’ service, which in itself is not illegal, however the fees that are charged can be substantial and will be in addition to the standard government application fees.
The majority of consumers who have used copycat websites are believed to have accessed them through the use of a search engine.
Care should therefore be taken to ensure a website relates to the official government department and that statements and notices on the websites are read carefully.
Many copycat websites do sometimes state they are only a checking service and not the official website but this can be easily missed by the consumer.
Trading Standards advise that the safest way to access government services is to always go through the website www.gov.uk and not simply rely on search engines to find the site you are looking for.
Consumers who have any concerns or complaints regarding a copycat website can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.
Further info can be obtained from Elaine Whyte, Senior Enforcement Officer,Trading Standards, Maconochie Road, Fraserburgh. 01346 587007.