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Report a misleading website to search engines

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GOV.UK

Government services have been getting a growing number of complaints from people who feel misled by websites which charge for access to public services that are either free or much cheaper when accessed via the official GOV.UK website.

Examples include people trying to renew their passport or driving licence, book a driving test or apply for a European Health Insurance Card via the NHS.

Example of google search result and advert
Example of a legitimate advert above Google's search results. If you feel misled by an advert, Google has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

Many people complain that they felt these third-party websites did not provide of any value over and above the service already available on the official service, accessed via GOV.UK. Some of those complaining felt misled into thinking such 3rd party websites were actually the official, government-run service.

The vast majority of people end up on such websites after clicking on an advert appearing above the normal search results on Google, Bing or Yahoo.

If you feel misled by such an advert, Google now has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

We have been working with Google, by far the largest search engine in the UK, to tackle this aspect of the problem. Over the past few days, Google has  stopped selling adverts to some of the websites which have been the cause of many complaints.

But Google remains very keen to hear from people who feel misled after clicking on such adverts appearing above their search results.  This will help them remove such adverts as quickly as possible.

If you feel misled by such an advert, Google now has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

Google now offers a simple form to let you complain about misleading adverts
Google now offers a simple form to let you complain about misleading adverts

We would encourage people to complain to Google if they feel aggrieved, since this may prove the swiftest and most effective way to fix this problem.

You can also report concerns about potentially misleading adverts appearing above Bing and Yahoo! search results.

On a related note, if you're concerned about phishing emails, or other Internet scams, visit this page on GOV.UK.

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  1. Comment by Olivia Solon posted on

    Fraudsters and scammers are everywhere and they are doing their job with dedication, but the problem is their jobs interfere and destroy our life and empties our bank accounts. They are cheaters, scammers and their concern is all about our credit card details, account details and other important document details. They want to make money in a quick way and for that they can do anything. Their first and most important way to hack you down is the “INTERNET”. The problem is, we also want to make money and because of that we fall for these scams on internet. Please never share your details with a stranger.

  2. Comment by Sue posted on

    Me too, yesterday, having googled DVLA and got Worried sick now as all passport, driving licence, NI numbers, DOB, mother's maiden name etc on form sent online. Got taken in by their statement they're registered at companies house in London. At least I've been able to block credit card before they process the transaction. Like a previous poster, I was in a hurry and distracted, can't believe I've fallen for this, am in shock.

  3. Comment by Paul posted on

    I've just been charged £84 for a new photo license, my fault I know but what a scandalous rip off, disgusting

  4. Comment by bridgeen posted on

    Just been charged 90 pounds they don't answer there phone or reply to emails , the site was the first site on webpage when I searched for gov page ! Really annoyed third party's are doing this ! This is my first time having to do this and I've been conned !

  5. Comment by Penny posted on

    It is good to see that I am not the only one who has been conned. Not just being a pensioner who is unfamiliar with the Internet.

  6. Comment by Patricia Marchand posted on

    The google form to report a misleading google advert does not work!
    Terrible many things nowadays cannot be reported so one just wonders if the public is really protected.

  7. Comment by Charlotte Palmer posted on

    Both my boyfriend and I got conned out of £117 each for a free appointment at the passport office thinking we were paying for our passports when we got to the passport office we were shocked and horrified to find no appointment booked for my boyfriend and that we had paid a third party instead; took our money for an appointment that is free to book direct.
    These sites often state in the very small print that they are not affiliated with the government, however they clearly portray themselves as offering the same service as the official government website. I feel really conned.

  8. Comment by Graham Cullimore posted on

    I fell for the scam trying to renew EHIC card I was charged £49 thinking it was the official site ,within minutes of realising I had been conned I tried to cancel on the site but was told their e-mail address had changed and to go to link provided.when I went to this link it was the EHIC .nhs official site. These rogue sites should be removed !!!!!

  9. Comment by Lesley Cork posted on

    I have been charged £49.00 for the renewal of an 'FREE' EHIC card, from, I was not shown this charge nor asked to confirm I wanted to pay this charge before submitting .
    Also if you dispute this charge you have to raise ' ticket' on their web page, you cannot then redispute or query their findings of said dispute as you can only open one 'ticket' and cannot add to your inital complaint. This is payment for nothing as they are in rality a postal service.

    • Replies to Lesley Cork>

      Comment by Carrie Barclay posted on

      Hi Lesley. Thanks for your comment, I'm sorry to hear that you feel you have been mislead by a website. To report the site and learn more about our #StartAtGOVUK campaign please follow this link:

    • Replies to Lesley Cork>

      Comment by Brenda McWilliams posted on

      Brenda McWilliams - 20/01/2015

      I have also been charged £49 to renew my EHIC card. I have tried to cancel the payment several times, with no success. Every time I tried to contact them, the message came back reference number ( which they had supplied me with does not exist ).

      Thier website EHIC-UK.ORG requests a payment of £23 for EHIC renewal, and £49 for a new application, In my case there could be no confussion, due to the fact that I supplied all the details they asked for as stated on my existing EHIC,

      I received the same info as Graham, i.e that thier email address had changed, to the link provided, which turns out to be the official EHIC.nhs.

      I received an email from them last night (19th /Jan /2015 ), informing me that It appears I had forgotten to pay for my application, and requesting that I re-apply.

      Checking with my bank today, the £49 had already been taken out of my account. I bet if I was silly enough to re-apply, they would have taken another £49 from me.

      I entirely agree with Graham, that these sites should be removed.

      • Replies to Brenda McWilliams>

        Comment by Bernardo posted on

        I have the same problem with I have paid 49 without asking me for confirmation, and no possibility of contacting them whatsoever. That was on 8th of January 2015 and i did not received any card yet.

        Can anyone let me know if they have received them.

        Tank you

  10. Comment by Ana posted on

    EHIC card... I've been charged £49 for EHiC cards that are free on the legal website.
    I wrongly applied on
    I have been trying to contact them to refund the money and haven't received any answer.

  11. Comment by Karen green posted on

    I bought the baby's first passport on 12th June to see my bank had been charged £66 rather then £46 it's a piss take, the site that scammed me was http://www.UK-Passport.NE. It's really not fair from now on I'm not applying online at all stick to post office

  12. Comment by Lesley-Anne posted on

    I have just found out that although I thought I had renewed my tax disc 3 weeks ago the dvla has no record of this and the website appears on my credit card statement and has charged my £220.00 for a £180.00 tax disc but 3 weeks later no disc! So £220 for nothing. I had no idea I was on a scam website.
    Surely this cant be legal?
    My credit card company has told me I have to pay the bill and try to claim it back but not to hold my breath!

  13. Comment by Mahomed posted on

    I have just renewed both my car and my wife's, and two days later found out i have been charged £80 for both, this is disgusting and should be stopped, i sent a complaint to i also tried NOT happy at all should pay back. and be forced to shut down, the government should do something to stop this happening

  14. Comment by Martin posted on

    I've just had the same thing happen, los and feels like the official government site, color, green triangle, correct content, lots of methods of other services etc. But it's not, £40 extra for more effort than the official site, surely this misleading set up is illegal, if so many people get yelled up by it then a reasonable person is misled my it, hence it's wrong. They should be shut down and forced to pay back the extra plus interest as set by the fsa.

  15. Comment by Peter posted on

    I have just renewed my car tax on line. I thought that I was on the official Government site, but upon checking my bank, I have found that I have been stopped an extra £40.00.
    The site I had been switched to was Please be aware of this as you will lose your £40.00 as there is no refund.

  16. Comment by John West posted on

    this is a total waste of time and just lets crooks get away with online cons there seems to be no sanction for sites masquerading as official govenment offices

  17. Comment by Andy posted on

    I was totally duped by this site.
    Even when the additional £40 was taken from my account, I believe that the DVLA had made an error.
    When complaining the reply was tagged as 'DVLA Support'.
    Replies led one to believe that the DVLA had outsourced the work!
    It was only when a DVLA complaint form was filled in that I learned the whole truth.
    Even then the DVLA took ten full days to respond when they must have known instantly that a scam had occurred.
    The site is set up to look as close as possible to the DVLA site and it is only when you go back and give it a second look that you spot the warning and see the full horror of the terms and conditions.
    The T and Cs are well hidden and the first time most people realise that they have made a grave error is when they see their bank statement.
    This practice may not be illegal but it is immoral and action needs to be taken to remove such sites.
    The Google complaint form is far from easily accessible and they need to do a better job of creating a clearly designed, readily accessible form for consumers to use when they have a concern. The current form seems designed for those advertising on the site rather than for 'the man on the Clapham omnibus'.
    The creation of a site to mirror the authentic site is a clear attempt to deceive the public. Judging by the proliferation of sites listing complaints from those who have been scammed the deception is clearly a very good one. Someone is clearly lining their pockets on the basis that people in a hurry or who need to renew only annually are prone to make an error! This must impact heavily on those with low incomes who fall foul of this immoral practice.
    There must be a way in which such sites can be made illegal and removed from search engines. If not the authorities are themselves complicit in such scams.

  18. Comment by Jackie Gale posted on

    I lost £40.00 when renewing my tax disc on line. I searched as detailed on the V11 official form and arrived at a copycat site all too easily. A site that charged me £40 for a service I didn't need or want. Please just go to the Post Office to renew your vehicle tax in future!.

  19. Comment by Richard posted on

    I was a victim of and I am supposed to pay £79.75 for six months road tax. I checked my bank It was deducted £119. I was scammed £40. I phoned the DVLA and they say. I clicked the wrong websites. The websites was misleading because I went to Please don't pay your tax disc on this websites.

  20. Comment by Carrie Barclay posted on

    The best place to find government services and information is If you feel misled by an advert, use this form to report the website to Google:

  21. Comment by Steph posted on

    Copy cat road tax site scammed me of £40 when renewing tax.
    Busy mom the web address shouldn't be able to advertise itself as directgov
    The colour scheme to is the same and when you have a child demanding your attention at same time these scammers shouldn't be allowed to operate

  22. Comment by Angela from Wolverhampton posted on

    I went on to taxdisc - a couple of days ago to renew my tax disc and went on to the first website listed - it asked all appropriate questions do I have a valid mot etc so thought it is all official only to find out afterwards that I ended up paying a service charge of £40.00! I chose to buy a disc for 12 months at £110 only to be charged extra £40.00 and then they say it is all legal how can this be legal if they have nothing to hide why didn't a total of £150.00 come up at the end for you to agree? I feel that this is fraudulent as how can they accept money that you are paying to the government and not to them to pass on, I bet if they did not pass it on something would be done very quickly about it. Well now I am out of pocket of £40.00 how do I make ends meet when things like this happen I am also currently unemployed and without an income is it legal to rip people off - obviously, the DVLC are not too concerned about these goings on, also, if you notice when the tax disc arrives it has a different visa number to the one you paid with, plus a £2.50 handling fee - this is their visa card! they use it when they go on the official website to buy your tax disc! Finally, when I attempted to go back onto the website earlier this morning, I left my number for them to call me - they never did or will do AND now the website has "mysteriously" disappeared from Google!! My advice is to cancel your card details and get another.

    WHO is going to pay us back our £40???????

    Thank you.

    Will anything become of this message? Will or is anyone doing anything about it? I am also going to send this to Watchdog

    • Replies to Angela from Wolverhampton>

      Comment by Carrie Barclay posted on

      Hi Angela. Thank you for your message. The url to renew your tax disc is From what you've said here it would appear that you typed the information into Google and then chose a search result from the list.

      The best place to find government services and information is to start on If you feel misled by an advert, use this form to report the website to Google: ]

      We have been working with Google to tackle this aspect of the problem. Google has stopped selling adverts to some of the websites which have been the cause of many complaints.

      • Replies to Carrie Barclay>

        Comment by AMANDA posted on

        the govermnet site to complain about this website that has the same colours heading and words as DVLA does n
        the website is

    • Replies to Angela from Wolverhampton>

      Comment by Ren posted on

      Just shut these sites down, I have just paid £196 for a £156 tax disc plus £2.50, let me know when you get act together, meantime I'll be using the Post Office

      All the best

  23. Comment by tan posted on

    do you actually get a tax disc off this company

  24. Comment by Jane posted on

    Is the link to the complaint form working correctly? It appears to be getting stuck.

    • Replies to Jane>

      Comment by Carrie Barclay posted on

      I've just checked and the link seems to be working fine - if you continue to have problems please let me know. Carrie

  25. Comment by CBen posted on

    Whatever happened to:
    1. copyright? Surely the appearance of a site is the copyright of the authors and therefore people stealing the code are breaking these laws. By not protecting our Intellectual Property the government is not protecting our assets.
    2. Bank's responsibility for the legality of the payments. If each site was to be declared as fraudulent by code stealing straight away and the banks being made responsible from that point on for the return all disputed payments then the banks would properly check companies involved in this business.
    If the site is providing a legitimate service in a proper way the government can license the code for the forms making the bank's work very easy.

  26. Comment by Tony Williams posted on

    The elections are coming ! Make your m.p. know u are not happy with these gov sites. That should be illegal

  27. Comment by Mike Galloway posted on

    I'm commenting here so others can see, I have already made contact with GDSTeam via Twitter. I was alerted to the url which ends up here by government consumer minister Jenny Willott on BBC Radio 4 Money Box today in a recorded interview.

    I am really surprised and disappointed that the really good effort by GDS generally appears to have "misled" by government spin in this instance and has allowed the government to claim they have got somewhere with the search engines dealing with this issue when clearly there has been little real change. Is it Google seem to think they are above all UK laws, not just tax laws? I like and use Google services, but they really need to be far more responsive to public concerns.

    A search I did earlier today for - tax disc - brought up the following result which had an Google Adwords advert at the top - something the article above impliessays Google claim to have stopped accepting!! The search results give the correct one to the government website as result 1 - but the second result is to another "misleading" (I'm happy to say scam, fake, con, fraudulent - let them sue me) website. In fact they both appear to be from the same outfit but with different urls.

    As others have said here, if the current law is not strong enough to deal with these scam merchants and shut them down then new laws should be implemented urgently. But I am sure there are more than enough ways the existing law can be used - including against Google if they fail to act.

    Additional funding for Trading Standards is all very well, but the initial need surely is to remove all reference to these "misleading" websites from Google that is the way now by which most people access things on the web, and to take down the websites concerned.

    It is clear these sites are preying on peoples vulnerability and are pretending to be government websites - a mention in small print that they are not associated with the real website is next to useless.

    This needs centrally by central government - NOW!! Anyone getting this page is probably savvy enough to realise a site is a scam before actually using a site; or has already been scammed.

    Following from what someone else has said above, such sites are sure guilty of "Fraud by false representation". Under section 2(2) of the Fraud Act 2006 "A representation is false if (a) it is untrue or misleading, and (b) the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading." - that seems to describe these sites perfectly? An attempt to make the true position clear by a VERY small print disclaimer does not make the false representation any less misleading!

    This needs centrally by central government - NOW!! Anyone getting this page is probably savvy to realise a site is a scam before actually using a site; or has already been scammed.

    We can all be conned, I have been when I should have known better. Whilst I was a Cabinet Member for (amongst many other things) Trading Standards at a local authority I was conned by an outfit that claimed to be reconditioning car engines, ultimately taken down by Met Police who recovered over 400 cars. We look to regulators to regulate.

    There will be some instances where there will be "added value" but any websites (or print media etc) promoting such services should not make any attempt to pretend to be the government website.

    Mike Galloway

  28. Comment by MRS K WOODHOUSE posted on


    • Replies to MRS K WOODHOUSE>

      Comment by Carrie Barclay posted on

      Hi Mrs Woodhouse. Could you let me know what website url you visited to make this transaction? Thank you.

  29. Comment by Peter Eric Stokes posted on

    I think that a website containing the wording DVLA or GOV. UK which is not the official websites of the uk government or the department for vehicle licensing authority should be prosecuted for both fraud and deception and the law should be changed rather quickly to prevent further losses to ordinary people who are just trying to obey the law by trying to tax their vehicles online, which by the way is encouraged by the government. The way things are going the ordinary person in the street will be taxing their vehicle at the post office, I know I have just been defrauded of £40.00 and I will certainly be using the post office from now on.

  30. Comment by David Mitchell posted on

    We have just experienced this scam first hand and it is not pleasant. How can these companies get away with it? I feel something more should be done to stop these website from being allowed to from looking so official in the first place and duping the public out of there hard earned money. They have offered us £8 back from a £60 scam, what a rip off.

  31. Comment by Mike Cloud posted on

    Scam companies should be banned from using words like "" or DVLA in their web-address that is designed to con people into paying more for the same services. These companies are based on fraud and do not advertise their fees until they withdraw the money from bank accounts. Government departments, Google, Trading Standards and Advertising Standards should do something to outlaw these companies and force them to identity their fees upfront.


  32. Comment by Sam Trivella posted on

    I went on to taxdisc went on to first website it asked all appropriate questions do I have a valid mot etc so thought it is all official only to find out afterwards that I ended up paying a service charge of £40.00 I chose to buy a disc for 6 months at £79 as I could not afford to pay for a 12 month disc only to be charged extra £40.00 and then they say it is all legal how can this be legal if they had nothing to hide why did a total of £119.00 not come up at the end for you to then agree, if you buy on amazon the postage is added on afterwards and then you can opt to proceed or not.
    I feel that this is fraudulent as how can they accept money that you are paying to the government and not to them to pass on, I bet if they did not pass it on something would be done very quickly about it.
    Well now I am out of £40.00 how do I make ends meet when things like this happen I guess I have to live on beans and toast of soup all because this is legal my poor children now have to do with out as it seems it is legal to rip off people ?????

  33. Comment by Patrick posted on

    The Yahoo! 'report potentially misleading advert' link above does not seem to work. Do you have an alternative link?

  34. Comment by John W posted on

    Is it not about time that websites/companies that offer similar and unnecessary services to Government Services (like passport renewal) at a rip-off price conning the unsuspecting out of thousands of pounds a week (eg like Passport Direct) be made illegal. They hang onto legality by a VERY fine thread and can even, on a bad day, con those with the savvy to normally avoid such websites.

    The law would have to ban the website/service even where they pretend to include other services like renewal reminders. Tricky but by no means impossible if the Government had the will to do it.

    Currently ‘Trading Standards’ have hundreds of complaints a week about these sites.

  35. Comment by Wasting Tax posted on

    Yet again the government is wasting our money on protecting looking into this. What next lessons on how to go to the high street shops!

    Why would anyone not go to / and then the correct department - that is how to protect yourself.

    • Replies to Wasting Tax>

      Comment by Tom Loosemore posted on

      While starting your journey on GOV.UK is a way of protecting yourself, the fact is that 75% of people start by entering a search term on a search engine, typically Google in the UK. Only 7% visit the GOV.UK homepage. We have to recognise the reality of users' behaviour.

  36. Comment by Graham posted on

    Tom the links above are clear enough. The issue is whether access is clear enough in Google. I was wondering how a consumer would access the complaint form after coming across an adsite. When you are in Google it is far from clear. I certainly couldn't find it. And I had read the post.

  37. Comment by Graham posted on

    Its far from clear how consumers actually access the complaint form on Google. Can you clarify

  38. Comment by alex posted on

    Another issue now is that so many companies are trying to scam well known brands e.g. telephone ; banks that customers simply delete all mail, in order to be safe.

    It's too difficult to tell the difference.

    Could there not be a CIFAS equivalent where citizens can send advice of scams, so Government, Industry and Charities can protect their brands and close down the scam firms.

  39. Comment by Philip posted on

    All government departments spend millions every year on TV advertising for Health,welfare, road safety, floodline etc, etc etc. On these adverts could they not have a banner going across the screen similar to a football result upadate, that consumers should only to go GOV.UK for passports, mot, ehic card etc. Think Mr Cameroon calls it "Joined up Government".

    • Replies to Philip>

      Comment by Andrew posted on

      Yes we should adverise GOV.UK more, however what is even more importanat and I am very suprised that GDS have not implemented it - is the ability the the customer to authenticate that they are actually on the real website. Frauders etc can clone the look of a site. The only sure fire way to safe GIOV.UK and hence all Government Departments online is to use security certificates. We will need our certifcate to be held by an external Certificate authority eg Verisign and then we would have a seal on our website. By clicking on the seal it allows authentication. That way customers know they are on the correct website and their data is safe etc. Would also pave the way for Goverment external email. We would sign the email with our private key. The recipient can verify our digital signature as will be stored (the public key) by the external certifcate authority. Going digital without having authentication procedures in place could be problematic in the future (Andrew, HMRC)

    • Replies to Philip>

      Comment by Liz posted on

      Having just applied for an EHIC renewal and was surprised to find the legitimate NHS application is via and not a NHS or GOV.UK domain, and barely looks like an official site. I backtracked to NHS to check the link as I thought the site could be a scam. Following on from Philip's comment, shouldn't GOV services be on a GOV (or NHS) domain?

  40. Comment by David Potts posted on

    Wouldnt an screengrab showing one of the pay-services be more useful than a grab of a legitimate service?

    • Replies to David Potts>

      Comment by Tom Loosemore posted on

      I did consider it, but I wanted to make it clear that is for Google/Bing/Yahoo! to determine whether an individual paid-for advert is misleading their users.

    • Replies to David Potts>

      Comment by b jackson posted on

      my daughter has just lost £72 renewing her passport to be told it has gone to a third party disgusting

      • Replies to b jackson>

        Comment by Amanda posted on

        im really disgusted! my daughter has been charged and extra £40 on top of the price for her tax disc. there is no point canceling your card as they take the money out straight away!

        • Replies to Amanda>

          Comment by david posted on

          just had my bank statement and have also been charged £40 by . there was no mention of any charge and it looked like the gov website ,been done by a website that shouldn't even exist.

      • Replies to b jackson>

        Comment by Barry Grange posted on

        I have just lost £49 by using the EHIC service that comes up as soon as you Google EHIC for renewal of the card. I did not find out the renewal service is FREE on the NHS web site until we received the card complete with information sheet from the NHS.

    • Replies to David Potts>

      Comment by John posted on

      Please be careful not to be misled by this website.
      This website asks you to fill in personal information for applying USA visa waiver.
      It charges you USD 140 instead of USD14 (apply through official US website).
      It only showed the difference between this site and US official site after I complained to credit card centre recently.