Consumer website Which? has warned Brits of copycat adverts running rife on search engines such as Google or Bing.

Brits are being misled into paying more for important documents including health cards, driving licences and visas with bogus ads appearing above official channels in search engines.

Among them were 18 ads overcharging users for services that are available for free.

Brexit and traveller confusion is also being exploited, with six results for the Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic) on Google attempting to charge at least £30 each, even though it is available for free through the NHS.

Another advert even proposed breaking the law by offering a licence to drive in Spain without a driver’s test, Which? said.

When contacted by a researcher posing as a motorist banned from driving in the UK, a respondent said they had contacts in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) who could wipe the ban and get a new, clean driver’s licence, for £685 (800 euro).

There is no evidence that the respondent had any contacts in the DVLA and the advert eventually disappeared after it was reported to the agency.

“Copycat ads have been a problem for years, so it is concerning to see them still appearing at the top of search results – often ahead of the official website – and charging unnecessary fees,” said Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert.

“Search engines must take more responsibility for the ads that appear and verify the business before misleading ads are published in the first place.

“In the meantime, unfortunately it is on us to keep an eye out for copycat ads.

“If trying to renew a driver’s licence, get a health card or apply for a visa, make sure you are using the official website so you aren’t left footing any unnecessary bills.”

A separate Which? investigation into DVLA copycat ads for drivers’ licence renewals found that almost three quarters (73%) of the most common searches for them return ads for third-party websites.

People can be charged between £50-£100 – seven times the official fee.

Meanwhile on Google, eight ads appeared for the search “renew driving licence at 70”.

All adverts dominated top search results and charged £50 for renewal for those aged over 70 – even though this is free from the DVLA.

Google responded to the findings, saying: “We have strict policies that govern the types of ads and advertisers we allow on our platforms.

“We only allow Governments or their delegated providers to advertise for official documents or services.

“When ads breach our policies we take action to remove them.”

A spokesperson for Bing-owner Microsoft said: “As our policies clearly state, advertisers who promote products and services must ensure they comply with all applicable local laws and regulatory requirements.

“We encourage people to report possible deceptive or fraudulent ads they may be seeing so we can review and take action as appropriate.”