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State: Beware of look-alike websites

Posted by: Alejandra Matos under Buyer beware Updated: October 15, 2013 - 3:03 PM

Attorney General Lori Swanson is warning Minnesotans to beware of look-alike websites of governement services or personal business transactions, such as credit reports.

In her monthly consumer alert column, Swanson said Minnesotans have paid fees for address changes, tax identification numbers and credit reports, which are all free or at a low cost, because they landed on a website that only resembled the official agency. 

Swanson described the experience of one consumer identified only as "Christina," who "wanted to re-direct her mail while she was away at college. She ordered an address change from a website that had a similar logo as the United States Post Office, only instead of a blue eagle, the website had a blue bear.  Christina missed the nuance and paid $40 for the purported service," Swanson said. "Her mail was not forwarded and when Christina called her local Post Office, the representative told her that changing an address online costs $1." 

Swanson said people can protect themselves by looking at the extension of the website. For example, a governement website should end with .gov.

People should also search through a reliable source, like a governement portal, to doublecheck contact information for state agencies, Swanson said.

Minnesota's portal for state agencies, board and commissions is mn.gov/portal/government/state/agencies-boards-commissions.

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