Public Protection’s Trading Standards Team at Pembrokeshire County Council are warning consumers against misleading ‘copycat’ websites which offer services from government departments - for a fee.

The copycat websites offer services including passport renewal, driving licences, road tax discs, tax returns and European Health Insurance Cards.

They are often mistaken for official websites, as they offer services from government departments and look similar to government sites – and many use website tools to achieve high positions in search engines often ranking them higher than the official site.

A council spokesman said: "Most of these copycat sites charge a premium for a service that is often provided much cheaper by Government departments - or even for free.

"Many people have mistakenly paid for a checking service, with some companies charging up to £60 per enquiry.

"Any official application fee will then also be payable on top of this, so this can double the cost of applying for these documents.

"Although these sites are not necessarily illegal they can lead the unwary into paying unnecessary fees.

Whether it’s an ad to renew your passport, have an application checked or book a driving test, a company should not imply they are affiliated with or that they’re offering an official service if that is not the case."

Consumers need to be extra-vigilant about these websites by looking for .gov in the web address; reading the information on the website carefully to check it’s the official service and checking the fees.