BBB Scam Alert: How to spot a parking ticket scam

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Watch out for this new twist on an old scam. Scammers are using new technology to create fake parking tickets that look surprisingly official. It could be a scam if you receive a parking ticket and are confident that you parked legally, according to Better Business Bureau, or BBB.

How the scam works

You park in a legal parking zone or pay to park on the street or in a garage. While you are away from your car, scammers use high-tech, hand-held printers to make a fake ticket and leave it on your car’s windshield.

This phony citation usually asks you to pay online or via PayPal. One recent case used a QR code to direct victims to a fake payment website. If you follow the instructions, you’ll end up paying a fine you don’t owe. Also, your personal information will now be in the hands of scammers.

One parker reported the following experience to BBB: “I paid $15 to park in a garage and received a receipt for it, which I displayed on my dashboard. However, I then received a violation notice for $56 for the parking receipt not being visible on the dashboard.”

In other versions of this scam, you receive an email claiming you have a pending parking ticket. Scammers typically include official-looking logos and argue there will be dire consequences if you don’t pay. Don’t fall for it! If you click on links in the email, you can download malware onto your computer.

How to avoid parking ticket scams

  • Know before you park. Before visiting a new place, research available parking and local parking requirements. Tourists with out-of-state plates are often the preferred target for parking scams because they need to familiarize themselves with local parking laws. 
  • Examine the citation carefully. Scammers can imitate logos and city office names, but an imitation website is usually where the scam comes to light. Do an internet search for the city’s official parking ticket websites and compare what you find to what’s on the ticket. Keep in mind that government sites should end in a .gov or .ca (in Canada) designation, and if there is a payment page, it should always have a secure connection.
  • Double-check the name checks should be made out to. If the ticket allows for payment by check, take a closer look at the address the check should be sent and how it should be addressed. Checks should generally be made to a specific government organization, not a string of initials or personal names.
  • Pay traffic citations by credit card when possible. It will be easier to contest fraudulent charges if you discover you’ve been scammed down the road.

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