DHSMV warns copycat websites are taking your money
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Some websites are piggybacking on official government ones and they're hoping you don't notice. It's all in an effort to take your money.
And whether they know it or not, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are helping them do it.
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles officials say they are disgusted by imitation motor vehicle websites popping up on web searches!
"I do not trust everything on the websites on the computer," said Thomas Richey.
Thomas and his wife Cindy just moved to Lee County and with that comes a trip to the DMV.
"It was really easy, quick," said Cindy.
They didn't look to the internet for help and there's a reason for that.
"These sites may appear official but they're not," said Lt. Greg Bueno with Florida Highway Patrol.
He spoke Friday on behalf of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and says websites are imitating the department and taking your money!
"Would you call it a scam?" asked reporter Kelli Stegeman.
"I would call it a scheme," Lt. Bueno said.
Companies are paying search engines to show their ad during your search results.
"If a person does an internet search for Florida drivers license, that search will then pop up a deceptive website as well," Lt. Bueno said.
Stegeman tried it for herself. She got several of sites where she was asked to fill out her personal information and pay a fee for services you might otherwise be able to get for free. So how is it legal?
"They skirt the legal issues by at the bottom of their site, even if it is in small print, they'll put a disclaimer stating that 'This is not an official site' and that is how they are getting away with it," said Lt. Bueno.
Stegeman reached out to Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
Google told her companies pay them to show their ad when users enter certain key words. Google wouldn't mention specifics related to this story but say parameters are in place to prevent companies from advertising scams.
Again, these particular websites are legal.
"It's a money making scheme," said Lt. Bueno.
All of this is reinforcing for the Richey's that it's always better to deal with someone in person.
By the time of our deadline, Stegeman did not hear anything back from Yahoo!
A Microsoft spokesperson for Bing had this to say: "Bing is committed to providing customers with the most relevant results and best search experience possible. We're consistently working to identify and remove spam and deceptive websites from search advertisements. We encourage consumers to research websites with which they do business."
The DHSMV says the following websites are the ones to use for information directly from the department: