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Booking a test or visa online? Don't get stung by an unofficial website

There has been a rise in complaints about unofficial websites offering tests or even travel visas.

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L plate

MORE WARNINGS ARE being given about booking theory and visas online, after people report being stung by unofficial sites.

The European Consumer Centre in Ireland said today that it is advising people looking to book travel visas or driver theory tests to only use official channels. This is because the ECC has seen a rise in complaints about unofficial websites offering such services.

It said it has seen an increase of 12% in queries and complaints about websites offering to process ESTA travel visas for the US, compared to 2013.

Many people reported to the ECC that they had been charged “significantly more” for the service than if they had gone through official channels.

In one case, an elderly consumer applying for an ESTA visa was charged €104, over €80 more than the actual cost of the visa.

The ECC also warned about websites offering to process applications for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The application for the EHIC card is free through the HSE’s website. However, some people said they were charged between €10 and €14 by unofficial channels.

In one case, a consumer paid €20 for cards for himself and his wife but the cards were never received.

The issues have also come up with booking driver theory tests online, with some people finding that they had inadvertently booked via an unofficial website. This is something that the Road Safety Authority had flagged earlier this year.

In most of these cases reported to the ECC, the traders were based out of the UK and charged “inflated fees” , or else didn’t provide any service.

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The ECC warned:

It is important to note that these traders often go to great lengths to present themselves as an official website and consumers should be doubly vigilant to avoid being caught out. Some sites may appear as sponsored results in search engines and may therefore rank above the official channel.

ECC Ireland said that people should be prudent when looking online for visa, theory test, or EHIC applications, and if in doubt, to contact the responsible authority directly to verify if the website is official.

People are also advised to read the terms and conditions and any small print on these websites carefully before handing over personal or financial information.

Read: Planning to take the driver theory or driving test? You need to read this>

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