Make sure it's an official website when you're online
End up on the wrong website and you’ll be handing over money for documents and services that are free!
Beware websites that help you find official documents or services but charge you a high premium for things that could be a lot cheaper or free. They take advantage of search engines by paying for ads to put them at the top of the list when you search. You can always tell an advert – it will have “Ad.” by the item but in very small type.
For example, search “title deeds” and the websites that appear in the top spots charge you around £40 for a copy of the title deed and plan. You can download those documents instantly from the official Land Registry for £3 each. Some even have web addresses with the words “landregistry” in their URL so they sound like an official site. But they are not. You can find the official Land Registry site by searching gov.uk for “land registry” – or at ros.gov.uk for Scotland, and nidirect.gov.uk for Northern Ireland.
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Similarly, if you type “tax my car” on some search engines, the top website listed is not the official site. It will tax your car for the correct price but as part of your payment you agree to a £7.95 per month recurring charge, which can be cancelled – if you remember to do so. The official place to tax your car throughout the UK is gov.uk (search “tax my vehicle” there).
If you’re travelling to Europe, you may want to check if you need what used to be called an EHIC but now, since the UK left the EU, is called a
GHIC – Global Health Insurance Card. Search for EHIC or GHIC and you will get a website that appears official but will charge you £14.50 for the GHIC. You can get one free from the official site: go to gov.uk or nhs.uk and search there.
The way to avoid these traps is to go straight to the UK government website gov.uk (gov.scot for Scottish services, or nidirect.gov.uk for services from the Northern Ireland Executive), then search for what you want on that site. If you use a general search engine, always ignore results that have “Ad.” by them. They will take money off you.
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QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com. Paul cannot answer you personally, but will reflect them in his column.