If you're trying to renew your driver's license or car registration online, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has a warning: be on the lookout for mimic websites. These are websites that may look like the real deal, but they don't provide any official RMV services.
Recently, Steven Mojer of Nantucket walked us through the steps he took when trying to renew his vehicle registration online. His Google search led him to a link for what he thought was the official state site for the RMV. He didn't realize it was actually an ad and clicked through.
"It all looked pretty official to me," said Mojer. "There was four pages and I filled them all out, put my credit card number in, and didn't give it another thought."
Mojer thought he had paid for a $60 RMV registration, but a couple days later, he says his bank called, alerting him to a charge from a Texas company on his credit card.
"I thought they were wrong," said Mojer.
Upon inspection, Steven found a $4.99 charge from a company called MyCar-Reg for an online registration instructional manual.
"I called them up and said, 'I don't want your services. I don't need your services,'" explained Mojer. "And they said it's a good thing I called because they were about to charge me another $19.99."
Mojer had entered his credit card information on what the RMV calls a mimic website, a site typically reached by customers using online search engines. You may sometimes see the word "ad" on the site link.
State officials say consumers should be extra vigilant and avoid any sites that charge fees to receive basic information or forms, as well as websites offering to conduct business online for you. Another red flag: sites that reference the DMV in Massachusetts, since the state registry is called the RMV. And be certain that you're on the official website before entering in any personal information.
"If it got me, it probably has gotten a lot of other people," said Mojer.
NBC10 Boston reached out to MyCar-Reg by phone and at three different email addresses, but did not hear back, and the site no longer pops up during a Google search.
Google told NBC10 Boston they won't comment on specific ads but said in a statement, "We have strict policies that govern the kinds of ads we allow on our platform, and ads that intend to mislead or deceive users are a violation of those policies. When we find ads that violate our policies, we remove them."
"I'm happy I got my money back, but that really wasn't the point. It was just making something right that I felt was wrong," said Mojer.
If you've given your money to a mimic site, the state says you should contact them and demand your money back. Also, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and contact the Massachusetts Attorney General's office.