MISLEADING websites are tricking people into paying additional checking fees when they apply online for official documents, according to the Trading Standards team at Dorset County Council.
People have been caught out when making passport, driving licence, EHIC Health card or Esta applications, and when booking driving tests over the internet.
Copycat websites, which look very similar to those of official organisations, often appear to be charging the full cost of processing and submitting the application but also take a checking fee.
A spokesman for Trading Standards said: "Many people have mistakenly paid for this checking service, with some companies charging up to £80 per enquiry. Any official application fee will then also be payable on top of this, so this scam can double the cost of applying for these documents.
"Although these sites are not necessarily illegal, they can lead the unwary into paying unnecessary fees."
According to Trading Standards, consumers should look for any mention of the official site in information provided, confirm that the web address ends with .gov.uk, and be wary about handing over personal information.
The spokesman added: "When using the copycat and unofficial websites you are giving them a large amount of your personal information, more than enough for identity fraud to be possible.
"If you think you have been scammed or ripped off contact Citizens Advice Consumer Services on 08454 040506 for advice, alternatively go online to www.adviceguide.org.uk."