Websites are still offering copycat-services in place of official services provided by government departments and local authorities. The difference is, the copycat-service is more expensive, not always legal, and seldom offers any added value above and beyond the official services available. Authorities have made a significant effort over several years to address this issue, but new services and sites continue to emerge.
These types of copycat-services are different to services delivered through trademark infringement and passing off, as the genuine services are still needed to provide the service required by the customer. E.g. with a passport application, the copycat-service would not make and deliver the physical passport but would act as an expensive intermediary. Instead of the customer paying £50 and applying directly, the copycat service could charge £100 and process the application on behalf of the customer; making a healthy profit from every transaction.
It is also necessary to consider the quantity of personal information required to make such applications, data held by the service provider, which has the potential to create a whole world of pain.
Copycat-services should not be confused with added value services such as the post office check and send service, where application forms are reviewed by post office staff before being sent to HM Passport Office for processing. The post office advertised this service as an added extra and applicants can make an informed choice. Visa agents work in this way also by offering similar added value services such as making sure all the paperwork is in order, or by visiting the consulate to process paperwork on behalf of customers. With copycat-services, the service providers manipulate customers into believing they are using a genuine service.
UK Government services have domain names which end with ‘.gov.uk’ and do not use paid advertising with links to the sites. Visit https://www.gov.uk for details of all available services. The following are samples of direct links.
- Passport Applications: https://www.gov.uk/browse/abroad/passports
- Driving Licence Applications: https://www.gov.uk/browse/driving/driving-licences
- Universal Credit: https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/universal-credit
- Land Registry: http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/home
Robert is an information security consultant with over 20 years of experience across various organisations, both in the United Kingdom and internationally. Robert graduated in 1997 with an honours degree in software engineering for security and safety-critical systems. Contact Robert directly through Linked In.