25 fake government websites closed down

Five people have been arrested for running fake scam websites, imitating government services

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Five people have been arrested for operating websites offering to help web users pay tax or apply for driving licences and passports.

The operatives were actually scamming the visitors, taking their money and identities but not providing the goods and were arrested under the Fraud Act.

The Advertising Standards Authority and Citizens Advice received 5,700 complaints about the websites, which all included misleading web addresses, ending in variations of the 'gov.uk' domain suffix, such as 'govuk' and 'directgov'.

Jo Swinson, Minister for Consumer Affairs, said: "The enforcement action which the National Trading Standards eCrime team has taken demonstrates the government's commitment to tackling these scammers. We will not let them get away with misleading consumers."

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In total, 25 websites offering the services have now also been closed down, saving thousands of people from falling into the scam traps.

Swinson said: "It's great that it's becoming easier and more common to use the internet to order official documents such as passports or tax discs, but people should be aware of rogue websites that are out there trying to exploit them and take their hard-earned cash and even put them at risk of identity theft.

"The enforcement action which the National Trading Standards eCrime team has taken demonstrates the government's commitment to tackling these scammers. We will not let them get away with misleading consumers."

Adverts promoting the fake websites have also been removed, with the help of Google and Bing.

The National Trading Standards Board's chairman Lord Harris said: "We have been working with search engines such as Google and Bing to remove adverts from online search results and we continue to gather intelligence across the country to help tackle this issue. We urge you to avoid unofficial websites which could leave you out of pocket or at risk of identity theft."

The manhunt was part of the government's campaign to educate people about using misleading websites, including those pretending to be part of the government's online services.

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