Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Lloyd Scher simply wanted to make a DMV appointment for his aunts license renewal.
To find the right phone number, he searched NC DMV online and clicked the first link that popped up.
And Scher, probably like many others, picked up the phone and fell into a trap.
He had such a hard time understanding what the responder was saying that he asked where she was. The woman was in Trinidad.
Infuriated that the Department of Motor Vehicles was purportedly outsourcing customer service jobs, he clicked on the next DMV link from the online search and called the next number claiming to assist with DMV needs. This time, Scher called the Philippines.
It was just ridiculous, Scher said. The foreign woman then told him that her company worked for the state of North Carolina. She told me, We do a very good job for North Carolina, he said.
Turns out the DMV is not outsourcing customer service jobs, but some companies are trying to cash in on confused drivers.
The website based out of the Philippines, www.form-assistance.com, urges visitors to call its number for DMV support in three different places on the page. It also pictures a woman, presumably American, with a phone headset on, and offers help with drivers license applications, renewals and other forms and services. In one line at the very top of the page, the website says, Form-Assistance.com is a privately owned website that is not owned or operated by any government agency.
Marge Howell, a spokeswoman for the N.C. DMV, said shed never heard of the Filipino site, but that shes heard about a similar website, www.dmv.org. The proper website for the DMV is www.ncdot.gov/dmv. She said whenever in doubt, check to make sure the .gov is part of the link.
Before any DMV-related services can be done on www.form-assistance.com, the website asks for personal information and a fee of $24.99. They automatically include a $9.97 list of drivers license test questions unless you uncheck the box.
Be suspicious of anyone who wants to charge you a fee to get a government form, said Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Attorney Generals office. Consumers should look closely at the costs and determine whether they need to pay those fees for this type of service.
Talley said the attorney generals office has not received any complaints about fake DMV websites, but that there are plenty of similar scams for all kinds of services, especially for ticket sales.
Scher eventually figured out the hoax and was able to make the appointment, and later saw that some of the websites had small disclaimers that theyre not government affiliated. He said he hopes other callers dont let these websites take advantage of them.
The public needs to be aware of what is appropriate and what is not, and this is not appropriate, he said.