09 Mar 2015

A question about : MSE guide discussion


Hi all,

We've written a new guide to Shyster Sites and we'd love your feedback.

Search for an EHIC, driving licence, passport or similar and you risk paying a shyster site for doing nowt. These sites appear high up on Google and dress up like legitimate sites, then charge you extra for what's normally just easy form-filling.

Have you been caught out (or nearly caught out) by a shyster site and paid over the odds? Have you managed to reclaim your cash after paying? Spotted another type of site we don't already list?

If so, just click 'reply' to post,


MSE Jenny

Best answers:

  • Hi everyone,
    Please don't forget these sites operate on Facebook too.
    Currently there is a very popular 'Sponsored' site appearing in Facebook news feeds promoting the fact that for a 'small fee' you can claim back a tax rebate for washing your own work uniform.
    This is [TEXT DELETED BY FORUM TEAM] and can in fact be done for free with a template letter from this very site sent to your employers tax office.
    Its scary watching all the comments and likes from excited people thinking they will be in for a windfall rebate when in fact the fee for most people will cost half the money they would get back.
    I tried to comment warning people but of course it was deleted
    Please don't get duped and as always, check out this site and the forums before you do anything else!
  • I disagree with the don't click thru to shyster sites advice. Do click thru. Every click thru on a paid for google ad will be costing them maybe five pounds, depending on the search terms they are bidding for, the value of the service they are offering, and who else is bidding on those terms.
    Even better, they generally set a monthly budget for how much click thru costs they want to expend. So once a few thousand MSE ers trash their monthly budget, their ads will disappear from google.
  • Be careful - I have recently used a site that I was completely convinced was the passport office - down to the same phone number and logo.
    4 passports were applied for online. As soon as I realised there was something wrong I used their e mail address to cancel but no response - so I couldn't cancel the papers and they took 4 payments. I have since found that I should have used their contact us box which was on a different part of the website and not obvious.
    I went through my bank to get a refund - I got a part refund but now the bank is taking it back and paying it back to the shyster site, as I am being accused of non payment of goods provided.
    we have decided to let it go in case we start incurring other fines from the shyster - but why does the bank allow this to happen?
  • I'm absolutely staggered and I feel pretty thick to boot! I have just paid Ј90 for a provisional driving license for my son and I now have no idea who I went through to get it...it all looked legit DVLA to me. I was shocked that it was Ј90, I had thought it was Ј50 but I assumed I'd got it wrong when I saw the charge on my statement. I have emails and such...from DVLA?...requesting further information - all so believable! I'm going to have to investigate now to see who the middle man was. Right after I bang my head off a desk that is!!
    I'm always looking out for scams and I can't believe I got myself caught up in this one!
  • I got caught out by TaxReturnGateway. I'm angry with them for presenting a service payment request payment as if it were a down payment on tax owed, angry at myself at getting caught out, but even more angry at google for making money out of sites that are tricking people which has been drawn to their attention many times. I realised in seconds and called my credit card co inside two mins but it was too late to stop it. I still hope to get my money back via the credit card company, they have had numerous similar complaints and are doing their best to be helpful - I will post how I get on. I've tried to complain to google but they make that very hard. It would be good if MSE used it's lobbying power with google. Can any one post a good email address or street address to write to someone high up in google to complain? Thanks.
  • There is also one for Fishing Licences where they charge you an additonal fee.
    Ј5 in addition to the one day Ј3.75 licence.
    An additional Ј20 on top of the normal Ј27 yearly adult,
    and even Ј20 on top of the normal Ј5 childs yearly licence. Website states 'offers you a third party data processing service'.
    Dont get caught out.
  • I booked a holiday to Russia through a Travel Company and when I received my booking confirmation I was sent a form for a visa application through one of their partner companies who wanted Ј140 per person + Ј9.54 postage to process this application. When Googling for visas I visited the Russian embassy site which told me that they outsourced their visa applications to an agency called VFS. On visiting this site I found that the visa application cost Ј50 + Ј32.40 service charge + Ј9.80 postage (per person), a lot cheaper than the travel company's partner. To add insult to injury I was called by them yesterday asking if I was using their partner to process our visa application, when I told them that I was using the official site I was told that I still needed a Tourist Voucher and Tourist Confirmation Document which I knew about. I was then told that these would cost me another Ј7 per person from their partner which I thought was disgusting as Titan should provide these free of charge as they are the travel agent.
    It goes to show one thing that travel companies are in cahoots with the shysters usually found in search engines.
  • I'm ashamed to admit i've been 'had' twice now. The 1st time i got conned into paying for a new EHIC Card, & the 2nd time was for a full Birth Certificate, which i hasten to add, never did arrive! I think it is totally wrong how these sites can pass themselves off as the real thing. It's no better than fraud!
  • Was it dvlauk.co.uk ? I have been "scammed" by them for Ј39 to get a replacement photocard last month. I have had nothing from them or heard nothing from them!
  • I was charged an extra Ј30 by bookingsdirect.org.uk when my son booked his driving test. I realised I'd been overcharged when I read about these sites in one of Martin's emails a week later. bookingsdirect.org.uk ignored all my emails and there was no contact number. I had booked through Paypal but they were useless. I wrote to my credit card with Nationwide and they gave me a full refund of the Ј30 'admin charge'.
    I also wrote to my local MP who was very sympathetic but could not do much apart from complain to the DVLA on my behalf, which I had already done. The site looked just like an official site and was first in the list of sites after a Google search for driving test bookings. After I had made this fuss, things have improved: the DVLA is now clearly the first option available and there are no ads popping up above them . I hope this helps others get refunds - don't give up!
  • My son got caught out by one of these shyster firms when he went to book his driving theory test. He tried emailing the company a couple of times to find out what they were doing about the booking and then to try and get his money back. After no response we rang citizens advice who were really helpful and put us on to action fraud to get a crime number. The bank refunded his money. So in the end no financial loss, simply frustration, disappointment and anger and lots of wasted time . He knows now what to look out for - excessive fees, premium phone numbers etc. a lesson learnt.
  • My son was recently scammed by a site when getting his provisional driving license which has cost me Ј90 instead of Ј50....
    How can I access your template letter as I do not seem to be getting anywhere with them?
  • Passport.co.uk looks alright but like an idiot when I used it and paid I think Ј69. I got back a passport form which the Post Office will give you for free. This firm had filled in my details but I still had to pay for the passport from the Passport Office. Tried to get my money back but got a curt email saying that they only advised had fulfilled their brief and that was that. The bank said as I had paid via a visa debit card they wouldn't refund my money.
    I checked these people out on Google and the Daily Mirror did an article back in 2013 on these scams. A long list of people who had been scammed followed, some really sad, young families paying out a fortune to these scammers with money they could ill afford to lose. I contacted Google about this firm and also Trading Standards but neither have shown much interest. Google need more pressure from us to regulate these sites. After all they would ban obvious illegal sites so why not these, which, in spite of their claims to be advisory, are crooked taking money for very little return
  • My partner got caught out by googling a passport renewal site. He paid Ј72.50 to this site and got just a passport form with all my details on it, which I the had to sign and send to the passport office myself. It was only when the passport office sent the application back asking for payment, that I checked the site he had used, and it said on the first page...we are not affiliated to the passport office....this meant that I could not get our money back, as it was not deemed illegal. It was the first website that came up on Google, when you search for passport renewal. Please beware.
    The website was uk-passport.net
  • I did this last week. As i am going to Belgium on Friday i checked that both my passport and EHIC card where in date. So i went onto google and searched for E111 and clicked on a link that seemed legit and is very close to the proper one. Paid my Ј9.95 as i wanted it fast tracked and received it in the post. Thought nothing more of it, only because Martin was on the telly this morning and my wife saw it and rang me do i know that it is one of these sites. A quick google of their Limited Company name IMAP (UK) Ltd on the PayPal receipt (why i didn't twig with them having PayPal as an option i don't know) i found a page on the OFT website saying that they were under investigation with a load of other sites.
    I'm now going to raise a dispute with PayPal and see if i can get my money back, i doubt it but it will hopefully put their PayPal account under investigation.
  • Actually it seems i have been done twice ! once when i initially got my card in 2009 by IMAP and now by E111ORGUK (how it appears on my statement) ! Both where Ј9.95
  • I've just been caught out by UK Passport Renewal - it's the first entry to pop up on Google. I must admit it looks the part and as I knew a renewal was around the Ј70.00 mark I went for it (x 2 as I did the same for my husband) I am not usually that gullible but I never considered that a Government body would allow something like this to operate. It didn't become apparent that all was not as it seemed until the printed forms arrived and I realised I still had a passport fee to pay. I've just found out I might be able to make a claim so I've adapted the template letter on this site and emailed it off. I am not holding out much hope but I'll post if I am successful.
    Feeling like an IDIOT
  • Beware there are Land Registry copycat sites too.......just paid Ј20 for a search that should have cost Ј3 !!