The DMV scam

I admit it. I was scammed. I am a fairly savvy Internet user. People are trying to scam me all day long with emails, blog comments, Facebook ads, etc. I can usually spot them right away and send them to the garbage bin. Yet I let myself be scammed. So here’s how the scam works. I needed to renew my wife’s auto registration. So I entered Texas DMV into the Bing search bar. Below is the results of the search. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

DMV 1

 

The very first search result that came up was for DMV.org/Texas. So my first clue that something was amiss should have been that this was a sponsored ad. Would the state government really pay Google and Bing for search results? It had a .org website address. I clicked on the link and this is the website that came up.

DMV 2

Okay, this looks legit. I didn’t study the website in detail. I simply clicked on the icon pertaining to registration and title. But before I go any further, take a close look at the text at the top of the website. It’s separated from the main website to make it more difficult to spot. But there in plain print is the disclaimer that this is not a website owned and operated by any government agency. I didn’t see it. I should have. But then again this is a scam counting on their ability to pass themselves off as an official government site while at the same time cleverly placing the disclaimer in a way that most people simply miss. I missed it.

Once you click on that link they ask for some personal information, including your credit card. Since this was for my wife’s car, I called her in to pony up her credit card. She entered her credit card and the next screen was a download link for our Texas DMV guide. Wait, what? That’s right, I had just been scammed (correction my wife had been scammed with my assistance) into paying $20 dollars for a PDF telling me that I need proof of insurance and a valid inspection. At least that’s what I assume it would have told me if the download link would have worked. That’s right. Clicking on the download link brought up a webpage error. So not only were we scammed into paying for something that we didn’t need or want, but we didn’t even receive the download.

Them SOB’s. Sorry honey. I didn’t look as close as I should have. “You owe me $20,” was her response. And guess what? She’s right. So, after being scammed, I looked for a number to call to ask for a refund. Guess what? There is no number to call. Why would they want to provide a number for you to call and complain when they can provide you with a little contact form where your complaint and request for a refund can be ignored?

So what are my options? How about the Better Business Bureau? Surely they should know about this scam. But guess what? This site and other’s like it have great BBB ratings. How is that possible, you ask? Well first someone has to complain. Then the BBB has to go to the business and ask them to respond to the complaint. They write back that a disclaimer can be found on every page, if you know where to look. The BBB tells the person filing the complaint that they should have seen the disclaimer. The end result is the BBB files the complaint away as resolved and everything is honkey dorrey.

What about going to your bank and disputing the charge? Here again the website operators simply say that the disclaimer is clearly displayed on every page. End of case. They keep scamming people. After being scammed I tried looking for the real DMV info. I literally found dozens of links all pointing to DMV.com, DMV.org, and other similarly sounding legit sites. Here’s another one I came across.

DMV 3

These websites know that they can get away with it because of their disclaimer. “Sorry, but you should have paid more attention. We provide a valuable service.” Okay, your valuable service is to charge for something that is available for free online. Hey it’s only $20. You’ll get over it. So what can someone do?

Well, I happen to have this forum. I can let other people know about this scam. Hey they might even try sending me some legal appearing email threatening to sue me if I don’t take this post down. I say bring it on. It’s called free speech. And one other thing. Those ads that they’re paying Google and Bing to place at the top of the search results, they cost money. Every time someone clicks on one of their phishing ads, they have to pay. I had to click on those ads a number of times in order to write this post. I wanted to make sure of the accuracy of what I was writing. In fact, I think I may need to click on a couple more ads for additional research. Don’t believe me. Please do a search for the DMV in your state. Be sure to click on the sponsored ads to see what I’m talking about. Now I don’t want you to just go clicking like crazy if you, too, have been scammed. That would be wrong. That would be dishonest. But at a $1 a click, you may need to click, oh say, on twenty or so ads just to make sure.

Update:

Since writing this post there have been a few changes to the scam mentioned above. At least one of the sites mentioned, DMV.org, has changed their practices and now offers to file your registration on your behalf for a fee. They also changed the look of their site. They still place the disclaimer at the top of the page in a way that makes it hard to see. But now they decided to inundate visitors with text. It’s just another way of trying to confuse you into purchasing something you don’t want, don’t need, or even know you are purchasing. Some of the other sites like DMV.com are still selling guides.

Since writing this post in May of 2016 over 4,000 people have visited this page. nearly all of the search terms and phrases that lead people here use the word scam. The bottom line is they can try to convince you that you are getting something of value, but the truth is they are not offering anything that you can’t get for free by just visiting the proper DMV site in your state.

 

Comments

  1. I got scammed trying to get my son’s California driving record. I was in a rush to meet a deadline and failed to see the disclaimer on top saying that DMV.com is not affiliated with the government. Maybe that’s the best place for a disclaimer because your eyes don’t go there.

    I continued filling out the order and gave them my credit card info but stopped and canceled the order when I realized it was a scam. Then my son got an email saying that they charged me $30. I called my bank immediately and they gave me a phone number to call. I got a robot response that said to email them at dmv1002@dmv.com.

    I am sending them a letter for a refund and my credit card company is going to follow up on this.

  2. Kristian Savoy says:

    Well fuck me…guess I got scammed for their lousianna one…i feel so fucking stupid and I swear I didn’t even see that disclaimer…wtfh….i lost $40 and I can’t find my birth certificate or social security card to get a normal id….i was betting on renewing my licence….now I’m fucked.

    If I need to get another job or have a in date id. I have jack and shit…fuck me

  3. I was just trying to change my address and got scammed, even the link to download their “guide” takes me to a page error. #%+<*#

  4. Lindsay says:

    Yeeeeah… I also got scammed. DMV.com seemed harmless enough at the time. I didn’t catch the disclaimer until after the fact. I felt it a little odd, but then tried to log back into the ‘account’ I had created on the website some time ago, but LOL it says that my email isn’t associated with an existing account on the website. Then towards the bottom of the page after attempting to log in, it asks: “Dont Have and account yet?” Lack of punctuation, random capitalization, as well as a spelling error. TOTALLY legit. Thanks, assholes, for taking my 21 USD!

    I should’a seen it coming from a mile away. Oh, well. Lesson learned!

  5. Peter in FL says:

    I was close to being scammed, but luckily the dmv.org site’s certificate was faulty and caused my browser to flag it as inconsistent, which in turn allowed me to spot that the real site is a scummy ad purveyor – not something I associate with the DMV. Then I did a quick search for dmv.org and came across this site, which confirmed my suspicions. Thank you for that. I feel bad for those who were scammed – maybe a complaint to the FTC might get better traction than the BBB (not an organization in which I have much faith)?

  6. Has anyone gotten their money back after asking them for a refund? Like most, I didn’t see the disclaimer as I was in a hurry and was updating an address change for my father….now I’m worried that even if I dispute the charge we will not get the money back as the author said above the website will just state the disclaimer was on every page.,,,

  7. Gabriela Anderson says:

    I have just cancelled my CC for the same reason. Have posted on BBB complaint, but am concerned about my private info obtained fraudulently. I believe this is cause for a class action law suit.

  8. I wish I had read these comments before I went on the site. I tried to renew my license with my smart phone. somehow I got on to DMV.org. I did not see the disclaimer. I called my credit card company and DMV.org charged me $2.99. Not a big hit, but I am sure there will be more. I canceled my credit card but I am concerned about my information.

  9. Monty SHelton says:

    Here in NC the so called DMV is just a 3rd party rip off, who has been breaking the LAW since I moved here 9 years ago. I have had to go to their “dmv” office and am required to PAY CASH ONLY for all transaction requiring a NOTORY. Well the issue I have is nothing is ever notiorized. When I ask why does the 5 dollars for the motorization have to be in cash? They reply it just has to be. Further more nothing is ever notarized! they don’t check ID , or STAMP any thing. I ask them about it they say they stamp them all at the close of the day. BS and ILLEGAL IF THEY DO! WHO OWNS DMV>COM?

  10. I called the DMV in CA. I live in WA. and we use the DOL. I dont know if I called them or the real DMV but I got the email after being told the phone wait would be over 2 hours and I could just email the address To: DMV1002@DMV.COM well I didnt spend any money but feel like they are pretending to be the real DMV.

  11. they got my daughter too! until I saw my credit card got charged ! no way for me ! I fight !

  12. Yelnats says:

    tl;dr – DO NOT USE dmv.org for anything.

    I made the mistake of rushing to get my car’s registration renewal taken care of, but I did it right before bed and while exhausted.

    dmv.org has changed their branding a little bit but my story is the same as yours—completely missed the “we’re not government at all” disclaimer.

    You know what’d be awesome? Some sort of disclaimer stating that they’re not a government site DURING the payments/services prompts. I felt like I was a pretty scam-savvy and watchful person as well, and now I’m absolutely sick/angry about the whole thing.

    I’ve filled out the Zendesk form they’ve got, contacted my bank, and left a voicemail with dmv.org’s Support (number was on BBB’s site but who knows if the messages are monitored at all). I’m expecting to hear the same as you did – “says it right there, they’re a private company” and I’ll be very surprised if I get any traction from their Support team via the web form or voicemail.

    Now dmv.org let’s you pay ~10 for a processing fee plus whatever your car’s registration renewal fees/taxes are, the supposedly they’ll request everything for you and get the renewal taken care of. Competely unnecessary service and actually takes longer to fill in the information on dmv.org’s site than it did to enter it on the actual DMV website. For now, I have to wait to see if I’m just out of ~160 while I kick myself for being an idiot, or if they’re actually going to do what they say they’ll do and get the renewal done ASAP.

    After I paid for the renewal tax amount, plus dmv.org’s fee, there was absolutely no time estimate given for when I’ll get my stickers or even what the next steps are for me/them. I’ll update once I found out more.

    Here’s to hoping that it all resolves to something not terrible, and soon. Getting pulled over is fun and all, but I’d rather it not be because of expired stickers.

  13. hello , I got scammed this website too https://www.dmv.com/wi/wisconsin/dmv-office/manitowoc , be aware . this website is totally scam . don’t go to this website, don’t fill any information , they will steal your information so be careful .

  14. I almost got scammed!! I was trying to get into the DMV California website and just typed in DMV in google and their website came up. I didn’t noticed it wasn’t the real DMV.ca.gov and entered my information, like name, address etc. The next page came to a billing information page wherw you enter your credit card information and all, and that’s when I stopped and re-looked into the page. I mean, I have been to DMV so many times I know for sure you do not need to provide your credit card information when you schedule an appointment. They were charging $28. This is not acceptable. Why is a private office or organization able to use the words DMV into their website, it is misleading!

  15. Rebecca Burns says:

    THANK YOU for this info, I will NOT go through them now. I’m SO glad that I searched for scams related to this company!!!

  16. Scammed says:

    Thanks for sharing the info here.

    I got scammed too, in the following link…..
    https://www.dmv.org/ca-california/replacing-lost-registration.php

    Yesterday 7/11/2018 around 5pm, I was in a rush to get a replacement of registration card in CA. I paid about $90 in total for next-day delivery, e-copy, and other fees. As of 5:06pm, 7/12/18, I haven’t received anything. No email, no delivery, nothing. When the online order was completed, the website showed a message that explained that;

    *If the order was completed after 3pm, the shipment will be processed the following day.
    *The request has been sent to DMV.
    *At the time of the shipment, a shipping notification will be emailed to me with an attachment of the e-copy registration card.

    What should I expect next? I only see “I got scammed” comments here, but couldn’t find any info about what happened later. (Like, after the initial credit card charge, unknown charges continued in a small amount, etc.)

    I will try reporting this scam at the following DMV link, even though this link is for a scam related to driver’s license applications:
    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/newsrel/newsrel14/2014_80

    • You probably were not scammed. I suspect that you will get the registration you paid for. You just paid more than what you would have paid had you gone to the official site, Consumer complaints have made a difference. These company for the most part are no longer scamming people who get nothing in return but a useless PDF file. Now they act on your behalf but at a steep price.

  17. I also got scammed. I’m pretty technically sound when identifying scam type websites. I made the mistake of entering the website the dmv registration renewal sent me into google chrome without the periods entered and the website that popped up was the scam website. They made a preauthorized charge of 3.99 then two days later charged me 19.99. Hopefully this is all they charged me. I was never prompted to enter my vin or any other info they might need to actually renew my registration and luckily figured it out pretty quickly once I actually later used the real http web address. Hopefully I won’t see any additional charges because that would really suck to have to change all my bank info since it’s tied to so many of my accounts.

    • HEATHER RICHARDSON says:

      This also happened to me, and my bank would not/could not refund the money, as it was done as a point-of-sale transaction. I realized quickly when I was re-directed to a page to download my Road Guide (which I did not order) that something was amiss. Went to BBB website and saw DMV.COM has a F rating, while the other scam websites dmv.org, driversservices.org seem to have A ratings (which does not make sense). I stopped my card after the initial $3.99 charge, but it is so infuriating that these scam sites are allowed to continue and have not been taken down or made to change their practices. I’m sorry, but the disclaimer at the top of the page isn’t enough.

  18. I nearly got scammed on this site. I got to the billing area and got suspicious when they tried to charge for postage and dug a bit deeper. Luckily I hadnt put my credit card info in yet.

    I’d recommend submitting an adword complaint to google. I honestly thought they reviewed the adwords sites a little better and I didnt expect to find a scam as the top result searching for ‘dmv’.

    https://support.google.com/google-ads/troubleshooter/4578507?visit_id=636757450840276017-1247918476&rd=1

Trackbacks

  1. […] often use this site to warn others about various scams. See my post on the DMV Scam. I wanted to share my experience with this company. Some of it is good. Some of it is not so good. […]

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