Next time you apply to renew your license plate tags, be careful how you do it.
The Better Business Bureau has dozens of complaints about lookalike BMV and DMV websites. And one Reading, Ohio driver is cautioning about how he fell for one of them, thinking he was using the state's official renewal site.
Brian Morgan recently received a letter explaining it was time to renew the plates on his pickup truck.
"I got the notice in the mail," he said, "and every year I then get online and do my registration renewal, and order my sticker."
So he Googled the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, specifically Ohio's O-Plates website.He clicked the top Google listing.
"It's always the first one," he said, "and I get it and go."
So Morgan entered his personal info, address, and credit card number. But instead of getting a tag renewal, he got a very strange response.
"I ended up becoming a club member for $3.99 at this place," he said.
Drivers fooled into thinking they are on state's site
As he inspected the site closer, it turns out he was never at the BMV website, but instead was on one of several sites that look similar to the motor vehicles department of various states.
From a legal perspective, companies doing this are doing nothing wrong. They are just doing a service, helping drivers renew their plates through their state.
But their informational service comes with a fee, that you really don't have to pay.
Four of these sites — that appear almost identical — are:
- The About Us page of all three sites is nearly the same, and is very vague about who they are.
BBB issues caution
The Better Business Bureau has a report only on Driversservices.org, and gives it an "F" rating with more than 100 complaints the past year.
Many of the complaints are from drivers like Morgan who thought they were on their state's official site.
"I do want to warn people," Morgan said. "If there is something different, like the website doesn't look like the original, and you figure they just changed it, go back and check again."
These sites all have disclaimers on their front page, stating they are not government websites. But Morgan and evidently many others, judging by BBB complaints, missed those disclaimers.
We emailed the two sites that Morgan said he ended up on, but have not heard back. Meantime, he said he will triple check next year, to make sure he is really on the State of Ohio's BMV site.
That way you don't waste your money.