The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in an news release Monday it has learned of several unauthorized online retailers selling hunting and fishing licenses that the department has since shut down.
Several websites are charging customers with extra fees for hunting and fishing licenses, and in some instances, could be collecting personal information through the purchases. The department cautions people of providing personal information to any website.
Fish and Wildlife has seen a surge in these websites during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since July 2019, the department has shut down six unauthorized websites and is in the process of shutting down two more.
“Because CDFW’s license sales offices and some independent license sales agent offices have been temporarily closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, there has been a surge in online sales over the summer months,” the release states. “Unscrupulous website operators and scammers are taking advantage of increased virtual traffic, and the public should take extra precautions to ensure they do not fall victim to a scam.”
As a reminder, the state Fish and Wildlife agency only has one online avenue for purchasing licenses, through the Automated License Data System. Licenses can also be purchased by phone through Fish and Wildlife at 800-565-1458, an authorized license sales office or through an independent license sales agent, like a sporting goods store, discount store or bait and tackle shop.
Purchases made through the automated system as well as independent retailers include a 5% handling fee, however, some of the unauthorized websites have tacked on additional bogus fees. The licenses mailed to people through unauthorized websites are legitimate in some cases, but not always, the release stated.
The department is asking anyone who may have been defrauded by one of these unauthorized websites, or would like to check the legitimacy of a previous purchase, to provide details on their experience to ReportFraud@wildlife.ca.gov.
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