If you're planning to buy a fishing licence for Father's Day, make sure you avoid copycat sites otherwise you could end up paying extra purely to cover "administration" costs.

The Environment Agency says it's received numerous complaints from people who've bought what they thought were licences online only to find they've paid an extra 20 for the application to be processed on their behalf, something they could easily have done themselves via the Government's own website.

In some cases, not only have people been lumbered with administration fees, but they've also not received a fishing licence at all, leaving them vulnerable to legal action and a fine of up to 2,500 if caught without the proper permit.

Steve Nowottny, MoneySavingExpert.com's consumer analyst says: "Sadly this is just the latest angle on what's an all-too-familiar story.

"We've already seen consumers getting ripped off by copycat sites touting passport applications, EHIC cards, driving licence renewals and more now it's unwary fishermen who are taking the bait.

"In recent months, we've seen search engines crack down on copycat sites, which is a welcome start.

"But the Government must do much more to protect users from being fooled into paying more than they need to and in the meantime, anyone planning to buy a fishing line online needs to make sure they don't fall for these shyster sites hook, line and sinker."

Martin Lewis
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National Trading Standards says it's investigating copycat sites and aims to take action against misleading sites that pass themselves off as official Government services.

See our 60 second guide on Shyster Sites for how to avoid them.

How do copycat sites work?

The sites work by paying search engines to appear as adverts which often get ranked highly, usually above the direct legitimate site, once you search for terms such as "fishing licence".

Once you click on the link, you go through to a private commercial website. Though they're not illegal, they aren't technically unlawful, but they do have to make it clear that they're not affiliated to the Government, and explain it's possible to apply for free through official sites.

How can I apply for a legitimate rod licence without using a copycat site?

You can go online to the Fishing and Hunting section of Gov.uk. Or you can buy online via the Post Office or in your nearest branch.

You can also buy a licence from some fish tackle and bait shops.

How much should it cost?

There are 12 different fishing rod licences which you can buy, for example, you can get a one day licence from 3.75, an eight-day licence from 10 and an annual rod licence from 27.

Once I buy, can I fish straight away?

If you buy through the Post Office or Gov.uk, you'll get a receipt or reference number straight away showing that you've paid and you're covered. If any enforcement officers approach you, they'll see you've purchased a valid permit.

It can then take up to 10 days to receive the paper permit through the post.

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