Legitimate-looking fake parking tickets are popping up on windshields across the U.S.
Last month, the Santa Cruz Police Department reported a 19-year-old was arrested after placing fraudulent citations that included a QR code on windshields. The police said the fake citations directed drivers to a website for payment.
Police in Scottsdale, Arizona, reported that drivers in the area have received fraudulent parking tickets.
Melanie McGovern, International Association of Better Business Bureaus public relations director, said it has fielded reports across the U.S. of similar scams. The Better Business Bureau issued an alert on this type of scam last week.
“It is so easy to print these fake tickets, stick them on cars, especially if they slap a QR code on them,” McGovern said. “Most people like the convenience of scanning and being able to pay right there. That is where this gets tricky. That is why consumers have to be alert on where they’re parking.”
She said it is not always easy to know if a parking ticket is legitimate.
“A lot of municipalities will subcontract parking now. They’ll use a private company to manage their parking tickets,” McGovern said. “Parking garages, there are so many different entities managing this, that is where it confuses the consumer a lot. Are you paying the city? Are you paying the parking garage people? Are you paying the lot people? That is what scammers are taking advantage of.”
More cities are also replacing coin meters with mobile apps. McGovern said drivers should pay close attention to the app they’re downloading as fake apps may appear with similar names.
Many legitimate parking companies also use services like PayPal and Venmo for payments, meaning it might not always be a scam if you’re being asked to pay through one of these services.
McGovern said she recently received a parking ticket. She called the city to confirm the ticket she received was legitimate.
“People really need to be careful if they’re parking in a garage or on a ramp to know does the municipality own the ramp. Does a private company own the ramp?” she said. “Where are the tickets? How do you pay the tickets? Where do you get the tickets?… Familiarizing yourself with the parking before you’re in a situation where you’re not sure what to do and you make a mistake.”