Fake Parking Ticket Scams Are on the Rise — How to Spot and Avoid Them

If you ever receive a parking ticket, whether it be in a parking garage or pay-for-parking lot, it might not be real. Here's how to avoid parking ticket scams.

Jennifer Farrington - Author

Feb. 7 2023, Published 10:07 a.m. ET

A parking ticket on vehicle
Source: Pixels

If you ever receive a parking ticket, whether it be in a parking garage or pay-for-parking lot, it might not be real. Parking ticket scams are on the rise in many parts of the nation and in order to avoid becoming a victim, you need to be aware of how they work.

At the beginning of January 2023, the BBB (Better Business Bureau) reported details on this old scam that's now being done with a “new twist.”

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These days, scammers are using new forms of technology to create fake parking tickets and place them on your windshield. And because they look authentic, some people are inclined to pay them. Keep reading for all the details on the trending parking ticket scam and how to protect yourself.

How do parking ticket scams work?

pay for parking meter
Source: Pexels

It’s quite simple actually. With the latest advancements in technology, scammers have managed to get their hands on hand-held printers that are capable of making fake tickets, says the BBB. These tickets usually contain logos and city office names, as well as QR codes and instructions on how to pay them.

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While many will be instructed to pay the ticket via QR code or a website, the BBB says others receive emails with the ticket details and how to pay. Although scammers are known to target vehicles with out-of-state license plates as travelers typically are unaware of parking laws, anyone can become a victim of the parking ticket scam.

Here's how to spot a parking ticket scam.

Although a fake parking ticket might appear valid at first glance, scammers often leave loose ends that reveal discrepancies. For instance, if you know you parked legally and paid, but then receive a ticket, you should first do some investigating before clicking any links or making any payments.

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One driver reported to the BBB that they received a $56 fine on their windshield after paying $15 to park. That driver says they were cited for not having their parking receipt visible on the dashboard.

Another way to spot a parking ticket scam is to conduct an internet search for the city’s parking ticket website. It should end in .gov. If the site listed on the ticket differs from the city’s actual parking ticket website or doesn’t contain .gov, you may have a scam on your hands.

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Here are five ways to protect yourself from parking ticket scams.

Although parking scams are happening around us, there are ways to protect yourself from them. Here are a few things you can do to safeguard yourself from being swindled out of your hard-earned money.

  • If you’re heading to a concert or event that requires you to pay to park, educate yourself on the fees and parking requirements ahead of time.
  • Check the citation for any discrepancies.
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  • The BBB recommends double-checking where your payment should be sent or who it should be made out to. If it isn't an official government organization, it’s probably a scam.
  • If you receive a parking ticket and you think it's valid, pay by credit card. Credit card payments can easily be challenged but contesting a money order or PayPal transfer might be more difficult.

How do I report a fake parking ticket scam?

If you are a victim of a parking ticket scam, you can report it to the BBB Scam Tracker. This will help warn others so they can potentially avoid it. You can also report the scam to the local authorities so that a police report can be written up. A police report will help substantiate your claim should you dispute a charge debited from your bank account or credit card.

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Scamming people out of money and personal information is a crime. In fact, police in Santa Cruz, Calif. arrested 19-year-old Damian Vela in December 2022 for allegedly making fake parking tickets, CBS News reported.

Police say the man printed fraudulent tickets and placed them on vehicles parked by the beach. The tickets contained QR codes that allowed the victims to remit payments. Although the man was charged with unlawful use of a computer system and attempted fraud, he denied having received any payments.

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