Selling Free Forms

I was reading an online article about fake identities. There was an advertisement on the web page for social security cards. So I clicked through and arrived at the United States Vital Records Assistance Service site. That is a mouthful. This was an official looking site with a picture of the white house at the top. It had a nice layout. There was official looking text on the landing page.

The “advertisement” web page said that the Social Security Administration web site is poorly designed. This commercial site would get me the forms I need to get a Social Security card for $13.99. They provide the forms either through download, or by e-mail. Alternatively they will mail you the forms for $29.99. The company accepts PayPal. There really was not a lot more information about the actual company behind this web site.

There was a lot of fine print at the bottom of the web page. This company is not associated with the Social Security Administration. The forms they provide are also available for free on the Social Security Administration’s web site. The company does not issue refunds for any reason. They are not selling you the forms. They are selling you a service which costs them bandwidth. The web site was copyright 2004 by Social Security Card Services.

At first I thought this web site was some sort of scam. At best I thought it was some trickery to charge people for free forms. However I thought about the proposition a little more. Perhaps it is time consuming to search the real government site for the forms you need. And perhaps it is worth 14 bucks to have another site just give you the forms. It still felt like something was not right with the site.

Deep inside I wish I had thought of this idea. All the company needs to do is keep up the web site and accept payments. Maybe they need to provide new forms when the Social Security Administration updates them. I bet all of the transactions from the site are automated. This business must have a very low overhead. I wonder how much money they are making. The idea could (and maybe should) be duplicated for the same forms. It could also be applied to other popular but hard to find forms.