Blue badge applicants should be on the lookout for an online scam which will prove costly, says Helen Dolphin.
Last year I wrote about a premium rate phone line scam where people ringing the DVLA to renew there driving licences were being charged more than they should have been. Another scam has come to my attention and this time it’s to do with blue badge applications.
I became aware of this scam when Northgate Public Services, who produce blue badges for local authorities, contacted me following complaints they had received about the cost of the badge application. The company was confused by the complaint because the fee to apply for a badge (returned to unsuccessful applicants) is £10 in England, £20 in Scotland and £2 in Northern Ireland and free of charge in Wales. But when Northgate looked into the complaint they discovered that a website had been set up which charged £49 for people to apply.
It seems that this website was re-routing the application to the person’s local authority so although they got a badge (if they qualified), it cost them considerably more than it needed to with the people running the unauthorised website pocketing the difference.
This kind of scam has only become possible since the blue badge scheme was reformed because now people can apply online via GOV.UK instead of having to go directly to their local authority. When people have searched online for ‘blue badge application’ this alternative website has popped up and people have filled in the form not realising that they didn’t need to pay £49.
Northgate’s Executive Director, Joe Bradley said: “Unauthorised websites are preying on vulnerable, disabled people and taking advantage of what is a successful and beneficial service aimed at promoting improved mobility for disabled people through a badge which gives them better access to facilities by easier parking.”
To ensure that you are using the right website either apply online via GOV.UK or go directly to your own local authority website. You should also be alarmed if you are charged more than the maximum amount for your country.