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CONSUMER ALERT

Fake websites masquerading as the real deal

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Consumers who are looking for "servicearizona.com" but type "serviceaz.com" are directed to a site that is operated by private parties. (Source: 3TV) Consumers who are looking for "servicearizona.com" but type "serviceaz.com" are directed to a site that is operated by private parties. (Source: 3TV)
Customers have inadvertently bought items such as a driver's license manual. (Source: 3TV) Customers have inadvertently bought items such as a driver's license manual. (Source: 3TV)
The real Service Arizona website (Source: 3TV) The real Service Arizona website (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Rick Brandt knew it was time to renew his vehicle registration, but going in person to a Motor Vehicle Division location to complete the process was out of the question.  

"Yeah, I hate going to MVD," Brandt said. "I like do everything I can from my house.  It's convenient."

No doubt about it. If you want to avoid the lines and the wait times at MVD, just go to the state of Arizona's official website -- ServiceArizona.com -- and you can perform all kinds of transactions, including renewing your auto registration.

That's what Brandt tried to do. But he made a mistake.

"So, I typed in www.serviceaz.com instead of www.servicearizona.com," he said.

ServiceAz.com is a completely different website, and, according to state officials, it's very misleading.

[READ: Attorney general warns of unauthorized Arizona DMV website]

It might look legitimate and claim to help renew your auto registration, but it doesn't.

It asks for your personal information,  including your credit-card information, and you're billed $22.

What do you get for that $22?

"You get some kind of pamphlet explaining on how to register your car."

That money buys you worthless information, and you certainly don't renew your car registration on the site like you had hoped.

Technology expert and Data Doctors founder Ken Colburn says he's not surprised.

"This is a very orchestrated thing that goes on the Internet," he said. 

He says www.serviceaz.com is what's known as a parked site, which is a domain that is owned by someone, but it doesn't offer services like a real website.

Instead, the site allows advertisers to solicit their services and look legit at the same time.

In this case,  when Brandt thought he was renewing his car registration, an advertiser was going to charge him $22 and sell him registration information he didn't want or need. 

"These guys that do this don't just do one website," Colburn said. "They'll do thousands or tens of thousands of these sites, and this allows them to generate enough revenue to make this worthwhile. "

Brandt did not input his credit-card information, so he wasn't ripped off. But he wonders just how many consumers go to misleading websites like www.serviceaz.com and get duped.

"They try to look like the official page," he said. "So, to me, it's a website that is masquerading as an official page and try to suck money out of people."

It's a good reminder to always be careful when you're on the Internet, and don't rush through things. Always make sure you're on the website you want to be on.

Colburn suggests bookmarking sites you use frequently. That way you'll always be on the legitimate site .

Copyright 2015 3TV (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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