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BBB warns: Beware of deceptive licensing websites

Oregon woman scammed

PORTLAND, Ore. - An Oregon victim reported to Better Business Bureau Serving the Northwest that she was scammed when she purchased a fishing license from what she thought was the official Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website. 

BBB has seen a rise in complaints nationwide regarding websites that appear to be selling fishing and driver's licenses, but are in fact selling downloadable informational guides. BBB is partnering with ODFW to warn consumers about these deceptive licensing websites.

"While we urge consumers to always do their due diligence before making a purchase, it is equally important for a business to be clear and transparent in what they are selling," said Tyler Andrew, BBB Serving the Northwest CEO. "In fact, one of BBB's eight Standards for Trust is to advertise honestly. This is an important element for creating a marketplace of trust."

The Portland woman reported to BBB Scam Tracker that she did an internet search for a fishing license and clicked on the first choice that popped up. After placing her order, she realized the page was a third-party site, not the Oregon Fishing and Wildlife website. The woman claims she emailed the website asking them to not charge her credit card, but days later her card was charged twice. The company alleges she ordered books and coupons. 

There have been multiple similar complaints like this one reported to BBB. 

“We’re very sorry to hear a person was tricked when trying to buy an Oregon license,” said Linda Lytle, ODFW License Sales Manager. “Though this does not appear to be a widespread problem, please remember to go through ODFW’s website at www.odfw.com to get your license online.”

A similar scam is making its rounds nationwide. Consumers claim when they complete an online search for “fishing license” or “driver’s license” the search engine leads them to a page on FishingLicense.Org in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho and Drivers Services in Meridian, Idaho. The pages tell the user they can purchase, renew or replace their license. But after a purchase is made, the consumer discovers they ordered an informational guide.

Since more than 140 million Americans are involved in outdoor activities, BBB suggests consumers follow this advice before purchasing a license online:

  • Read the fine print. Consumers should make themselves aware of everything written on the website they are purchasing from. This includes specific terms, conditions, limitations and other descriptions that are often easy to miss.
  • Contact government agencies. To make sure consumers are getting exactly what they pay for, they should contact the state’s department of fish & wildlife or department of licensing before purchasing a license. It’s also wise to research the type of license and costs on these secure, official websites.
  • Specify the online search. Consumers are easily drawn to click on these two websites since they have high rankings on online searches. BBB advises to use keywords such as the consumer’s state and a specific license type instead of vague license searches.
  • Start with trust. Before purchasing online, consumers should also check business profiles at bbb.org/northwest to see if a business is accredited, in good standing, and read consumer reviews and alerts. 

Anyone who believes they may be a victim of a scam can report it to BBB. For more trustworthy tips on online purchases, visit bbb.org/shoppingonline/


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