TIM DREW: Complaints about imitation websites are rising

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WEST Sussex County Council Trading Standards officers are warning residents to avoid websites that make unnecessary charges for the renewal of official documents, such as driving licences.

Official-looking websites that offer new passports, the booking of driving tests and renewing of car tax are just some of the so-called ‘copycat’ websites that have sprung up – and those using them risk ending up out-of-pocket. By imitating official, Government sites, these copycat sites are designed to trick people into parting with their cash unnecessarily by charging users for services that are provided cheaper or free of charge through official government websites.

More than 100 complaints and enquiries about these sites have been received by West Sussex Trading Standards so far this year. The most commonly reported were tax return, driving licence, passport and driving test sites.

Top tips to avoid being duped include the following:

Use Gov.uk – it is the easiest and most secure place to find government services and information online. Instead of searching for the services you need via a search engine, go to Gov.uk and use the search function there.

If you do use a search engine, look out for the differences between natural search results and paid-for search results.

• PCSO Gary Morgan’s surgery starts at 10am tomorrow, Friday, July 25, at the Sanctuary Housing Office, Samphire Drive, Durrington, followed by a meeting of the Salvington Ward Neighbourhood Panel between 7pm and 8pm at the New Life Church, 10 Greenland Road, on Tuesday, July 29. PCSO Nicola Burstow will host her surgery between 2pm and 3pm at The Community House, 23 Dominion Road, Worthing, on Wednesday, July 30, and PCSO Ben Cruise’s takes place the following day, between 11am and midday at the West Worthing Baptist Church in South Street, Tarring.

On Friday, August 1, PCSO Carole Fulcher’s surgery will be held at the Goring Library, in Mulberry Avenue, Goring, between 4pm and 4.30pm.