According to trading standards, most people use search engines when updating their passports, driving licences or European Heath Cards — but there are some websites which charge for a service which should be free, or not even available online.
These sites often charge a fee for forwarding your details to the correct authority, or for ‘processing’ the application then posting you the information for you to apply directly.
Fees can range from £23 for a health card (free from the NHS) to £90 to update an address on your driving licence (free from DVLA).
Jennifer Hampton, senior trading standards officer, advises checking that the site you use is not a third party agency before offering up payment details.
She said: “Most of these sites do tell you that the service they are providing is available for free elsewhere.
“They also state clearly that they are exempt from distance selling regulations as they are providing an immediate service.
“However, that does not mean they are operating legally, or that you are not entitled to a refund.”
Eaglesham man John Forbes was caught out when applying for a European Health Card for his son, who found himself in hospital in Italy.
In his haste to help, he paid £24.99 through a third party site and could not get in contact with them to cancel afterwards.
The trading standards warning is backed by East Renfrewshire councillor Vincent Waters, who commented: “As ever, our trading standards professional are on the alert for this type of scam and want to ensure no residents fall prey to these fraudsters.
“If you think you have been scammed, please report it so that the websites can be investigate and, if necessary or possible, closed down.