RIP-OFF ALERT: The next time you need to go online to renew a driver’s license or to download some other kind of government form, how can you be sure the website you’re at is the official government site?
I read a report in The Charlotte Observer about fake websites that appear to be government sites but are actually set up by unaffiliated businesses hoping to make a quick buck off confused consumers.
Apparently, there are at least several websites that pop up when you do a search for “NC DMV” that are not the official Department of Motor Vehicles page. Sure, they’ll help you with a slew of DMV-related issues — but for a charge of $24.99 and only after you divulge sensitive personal information. (The official DMV site for North Carolina is NCDOT.gov, by the way.)
The most clever of these impostor sites even have outsourced call centers. So you dial a number listed on their site and suddenly you’re talking to a foreign call center where they may not even know they’re answering calls for a suspicous and possibly criminal ring.
The web offers a world of info, but info is not the same as truth. The ease the web presents to you is also a cheap and easy gateway for criminals to get into your life!
The funny thing is I just had a similar experience while researching a segment for my TV work. I was punching in a search on Bing looking for a link to a federal program. Without really thinking about it, I clicked on the first link that popped up. Good thing I noticed I was at a private site impersonating a federal website.
To avoid these kinds of pitfalls, keep the following in mind:
- Any official government website you visit should end with “.gov”
- Most government forms are free. Be wary of websites that want to charge you for them.