Posts Tagged New Hampshire
By John Toolejtoole@eagletribune.com
Eagletribune.com North Andover, Massachusetts
September 3, 2013
EAST HAMPSTEAD — Goldie Morrow got taken for a ride on her way to renewing her driver’s license online.
A company charged her $44.93 to help her renew her license. The company did so even after Morrow demanded it cancel her order when she realized she had wandered into a consumer trap.
Luckily for the 72-year-old retiree, her credit card company agreed she had been scammed and eliminated the charge from her account.
“It’s terrible,” Morrow said. “I’m staying off the computer.”
New Hampshire warned consumers about this in February. But the problem isn’t limited to the Granite State. Massachusetts and other states have issued warnings, too.
“We are seeing it in Massachusetts,” Massachusetts Department of Transportation press secretary Sarah Lavoie said. “We have to talk about it frequently. They head to Google and get in these mimic sites.”
At first, Morrow said, she thought the online renewal was a good thing, one that would save her a trip to the state Division of Motor Vehicles office in Salem.
But she made a common consumer misstep by a consumer: She ventured away from the official state DMV website.
Morrow said she used Google and ended up going to the for-profit company’s website instead.
“The screen came up with the seal of New Hampshire,” she said. “It didn’t have Maggie Hassan’s picture on it, but everything else on it made you believe it was from the state.”
She ended up talking to the company’s call center.
“He sounded like a man from India,” she said. “That didn’t seem right. We don’t outsource in New Hampshire.”
Morrow put up the stop sign when the man brought up the issue of her paying for help.
“Why do I need assistance? This is the state of New Hampshire,” she wondered.
But, at that point, she had already given up her credit card number.
The customer service representative agreed to cancel all charges, but Morrow had doubts later.
“It gnawed at me and I checked online and they had charged me the $44.93,” she said.
New Hampshire’s official warning spoke directly to Morrow’s situation.
“People should be sure to use the exact web address that is listed on their renewal notification letter in the web address line, not on a search line,” DMV director Richard C. Bailey Jr. said in February. “If they do a web search to find it, they might not reach the official DMV site.”
The online renewal cost with the state is $50, the same as it is when done in person.
The state advised consumers to leave websites that offer to help with license renewal.
“These sites don’t offer anything that the official DMV website doesn’t provide for free,” Bailey said.
The Massachusetts Registry was blunt in its assessment of for-profit companies’ tactics.
“Deceptive and mimic websites have been created to mislead customers into thinking they have reached the official RMV website,” the agency said in a prepared statement.
Morrow was fortunate.
“The woman you mentioned? Her credit card company canceling the charge? That’s wonderful,” Lavoie said.
Lavoie speculates the companies that try to take advantage of consumers like Morrow count on people being in a hurry and not paying attention to their small print disclaimers.
Kelly Clark, AARP’s state director for New Hampshire, said she would call attention to the problem to volunteers who work on fraud issues for the organization.
“That’s concerning,” Clark said, characterizing the problem as one that can result in consumer fraud.
This is always a risk in doing business online, she said.
“People can end up paying for something the don’t need to pay for,” Clark said.
She cautions consumers to be careful and ask questions before spending money when they have doubts.
That’s true of license renewals, too, she said.
“Pick up the phone and call somebody at DMV if you have a problem.”
Massachusetts has warned consumers to remember its RMV in the Bay State, don’t be confused by ‘DMV’ used in the company websites. The state also doesn’t charge to check on license status or forms.
Morrow didn’t keep track of the company that “helped” her.
That’s too bad.
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said he would be interested in tracking down the company because his office is very strict about who and what gets permission to use the official state seal.
“When we become aware of something like this, we would forward the information to the attorney general and ask them to contact the company and tell them to cease and desist,” Scanlan said.
Consumers who encounter websites where companies are trying to appear to be a state agency should contact his office or the attorney general, Scanlan said. Call 271-3242.