ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County officials are asking vehicle owners to be on the lookout for a new online scam.
Joe Provoncha, who serves as Essex County Clerk, the office that oversees the county's Department of Motor Vehicles, said a number of motorists in other counties have already been duped by bogus Web sites.
DMVAuthority.org and other similar sites claim to offer car owners the ability to renew their vehicle's New York registration online, avoiding a trip to the DMV where they would likely wait in line.
The site appears legitimate, asking users about their county of residence and vehicle weight on a "registration form." It adds a $10 "processing fee" and $25 for shipping and handling, then asks users for their credit card number.
The site claims to mail the registration via first class mail within 10 business days, but according to Provoncha, the deliveries are never made.
"It's the new and improved scam," he said of the site, noting reports from the Rochester area told of hundreds being victimized. "If you're paying for something and not getting anything in return, that's a fraud."
The site can be particularly dangerous because it appears as one of the top search results for "NY registration" on most search engines. Different versions of the site can be found at www.dmvservices.us and www.dmv3.vpweb.com.
Provoncha said online registration is available through the official state DMV Web site, found at www.nydmv.state.ny.us. He noted that registration renewal by mail has a two-day turnaround, and unlike online registration, benefits the county DMV.
Though this is the first DMV scam he's dealt with, Provoncha said identity theft scams that misrepresent themselves as government entities are nothing new to Essex County.
One prior scam, he said, would send fraudulent juror summons to residents then call them asking for their Social Security number under the pretense of postponing their jury duty.
"The Commissioner of Jurors never asks for your Social Security number," said Provoncha. "We would never do that."
As for the DMV scam, no complaints have been received in Essex County, said Provoncha, and he hopes there won't be need for any.
DMVAuthority.org is currently under investigation by the DMV and the State Attorney General's office. If anyone has used the site, they should contact the Attorney General's Office.