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Copycat Website

Copycat Website

Copycat websites are imitations of official websites such as government departments or local government websites that offer public services, banks, etc.

Public service scams

There are a number of sites that offer public services – especially visa services, passport services etc. Often these are designed to look official but to charge for services that might in fact be free, or a lot cheaper. When you google the public service website, these often come up first because they use various website tools to achieve higher positions on Google. They also have website addresses that are designed to confuse the person seeking the service into thinking they are official. Google requires companies which charge fees for official services that are available for free, but often this information is in the fine print or not available at all.

  • Do not automatically opt to use the first website(s) you find in a search engine, even if the address seems authentic and you are in a hurry.
  • Instead, take time to look for the official website. You can normally tell that site is official if it ends in ‘.gov.uk’, gov.sl, gov.bw, gov.rw etc.
  • If you do opt to use an unofficial site to purchase official services, make sure that the payment page is secure by checking that the address begins with ‘https://’ (the ‘s’ is short for ‘secure’) and there is a locked padlock in the browser window. This is not a 100% guarantee, but should should certainly look for this.
If you think you have been misled into overpaying by using an unofficial site:
  • Contact the site to insist on a refund, saying you think you were misled.
  • Report it to the relevant government department.