Fraudsters who promise to assist individuals in fraudulently passing their driving tests in the UK are heavily publicizing their services on social media, according to the BBC.
There are more than 600 pages, groups, and accounts on Facebook and TikTok that have thousands of followers and promise licenses without tests.
Others use Bluetooth earpieces to provide theory test assistance while some recommend lookalikes to take the practical test.
Such content, according to TikTok and Meta, is prohibited.
In analyzing data from Facebook and TikTok, BBC Verify discovered that as of June 16, there were at least 669 pages, groups, and accounts with 138,900 followers that advertised services for getting a driving license without taking a test. Instagram has advertisements as well.
According to exclusive data provided to the BBC by the Driving Standards Agency (DVSA), reports of impersonation-related driving test fraud have more than tripled in the last five years, from 654 in 2018 to 2,015 in 2023.
Even though it's still largely a secret issue, it claims that the number of people getting caught and having their licenses revoked is rising.
In the UK, over four million theory and practical driving tests were taken between April 2021 and March 2022, with a pass rate of roughly 50%.
Social media platforms were strewn with posts in various languages, according to our investigation. Many of these images are actual pass certificates and driver's licenses that have been copied from marketing materials published on social media pages for legitimate driving schools.
The posts only offer a mobile number or ask people to contact them via a direct message if they want more information about how these licenses are granted without taking a test, so there isn't much information provided about how these licenses are obtained.
The BBC got in touch with a number of people who were advertising these services on social media by posing as a person who had never driven before and was looking for a license. .
In a Facebook advertisement, one man offered to issue a UK driving license for £720 and deliver the pass certificate to the reporter's house in five days—all without requiring them to take a test.
The cost of a theory test is £32 and a practical test is £62; however, according to the RAC, the total cost of learning to drive, including tests and lessons, is £1,551 - assuming the student passes on the first try. The tests are £32 for the theory test and £45.50 for the practical test in Northern Ireland.
One woman who posted ads in Vietnamese on Facebook claimed to charge £1,600 for help with cheating the theory test and £2,600 for the practical driving test—a total of £4,200—to our reporter.
She explained that in order to make sure she could pass the tests with a convincing lookalike, she first needed to see what the reporter looked like.
The BBC also found a woman who paid money for a false service. Through a Facebook post, she was able to find someone to take her son's practical test for her, who had been having trouble passing. .
Following his passing the test on her son's behalf, the mother gave the fraudster about £1,000 in payment.
If the son of the woman is ever discovered, he will have his license revoked and will likely be charged with fraud, which could result in a prison sentence and/or a fine.
According to the BBC, TikTok and Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, do not permit the solicitation of driving license fraud on their platforms, and they will remove any content that does.
In response to the BBC Investigation, TikTok claims to have taken action against a number of accounts.
According to driving instructors who spoke to the BBC, the length of time it takes to secure a practical test slot may be a contributing factor to the rise in practical test fraud. .
Due to a backlog caused by the Covid pandemic, there are waiting times of up to six months in some areas of the UK. The BBC spoke to some of the con artists who were prepared to travel to areas of the UK where test wait times were shorter.
There is "a desperation for test slots," according to Carly Brookfield, chief executive of the Driving Instructors Association.
"You're going to think about cheating the system," she said, referring to the requirement that you wait up to six months before taking the test again if you don't pass it.
She continued by saying that some of the instructors in her association had been approached by individuals working for criminal services, who asked them to refer students who were having trouble passing their test.
Operators have been buying slots in bulk using automated software and reselling them at exorbitant prices due to the high demand for tests.
As doing so violates the terms and conditions of the booking platform, the DVSA claims it actively removes accounts that do this.
A Turkish-language flyer advertising a "100% guarantee" strategy to pass the theory test was discovered by the BBC during the investigation in a London cafe. .
Our undercover reporter met the Erdal, the man behind the advertisement, after posing as someone with little driving experience.
He claimed to be able to assist them in cheating by feeding them the answers to the multiple-choice questions on the test using a "microscopic" Bluetooth earpiece that was connected to a cell phone. .
They were instructed to click on the questions so that the computer would "read out loud" the answers, allowing him to whisper them.
"It's £1,500 and you pay me right after the test," he said. A gadget in your ear will be worn by you. The test takers won't peer into your ear during the exam.
"We've been doing this for quite some time. Every day, we provide this service to at least two people. " .
Following the meeting, the BBC called the man at the number we had for him to question him about the con. The respondent, who shared the same name, denied any knowledge of test fraud. .
People whose test pass certificates or driver's license photos have been stolen from reliable websites may also experience identity fraud issues as a result of these scam online advertisements.
When he was registered with a logistics company, Ian Jones' driving license photo was stolen. He was the person we spoke to about this. Later, he found that someone was using it on Instagram to promote a service for "theory/practical certificate without exams.".
Mr. Jones claims that because his license information is being fraudulently used abroad, he has had to contest hundreds of French parking and speeding tickets in the last year.
It makes you feel violated, makes you paranoid, and gives you a horrible feeling, similar to being burgled, he claimed. ".
The Driving Standards Agency (DVSA), which encourages traffic safety and establishes training standards, cautions that many online advertisements promising full licenses quickly are money-making scams that may only provide a fake license. It also states that the DVLA is the only agency authorized to issue legitimate driving licenses.
The DVSA reports that more people are being charged with test fraud through impersonation. They risk prison sentences and fines if found guilty. A woman was sentenced to eight months in prison last year for taking roughly 150 theory and practical tests for other drivers.
The DVSA warns that failure to meet the required standards before operating a vehicle could result in serious injuries or even fatalities.
In 2022, hundreds of licenses obtained illegally were revoked, according to Marian Kitson, the organization's chief of law enforcement, who claimed that the investigation team was catching more fraudsters.
53 people were arrested and 30 cases involving 497 offenses of fraud by false representation were sent to the government for prosecution in the year beginning in April 2022. .
Ms. Kitson added that they did not know the true scope of the issue but that it was evident from their investigations that there was even more going on.
The internet and social media platforms are very large, and these people are very clever because they move the advertisements around and alter them frequently, she said. .
Therefore, it can be difficult to identify them and act quickly.