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US Police Warn of Parking Meters with Phishing QR Codes

Graham CLULEY

January 05, 2022

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US Police Warn of Parking Meters with Phishing QR Codes

In a hurry to park your car?  Don't want to fumble around in your pocket to find cash for the parking meter, and don't have the correct payment app installed on your phone?

Well, think carefully before rushing to scan the payment QR code stuck on the side of the meter - it may well be an attempt by fraudsters to phish your financial information.

Police are warning that they have discovered bogus QR codes stuck onto public parking meters across Austin, Texas - a city where parking meters don't display QR codes, and only accept payment via coins, cards or a smartphone app.

So what happens if visitors to the city, or those in a rush who are not suspicious, simply scan the bogus QR code without thinking.

The QR codes found by Austin police department directed unsuspecting users to a fraudulent website which would ask for payment details with the false promise that their parking session would be paid for.

The City of Austin checked its parking meters after being notified of a similar QR code scam by officials in San Antonio.  They had discovered over 100 parking meters similarly stickered in late December.

Lt Marcus Booth of San Antonio Police Department told reporters that the webpage pretended to accept payment for the parking session, but that money ended up in the hands of scammers rather than in the city's coffers.

In short, it's not just car drivers who are the victims of theft, but the city too.

It's not known whether the attacks mounted against parking meters in the two cities are connected, or the work of copycats.  But clearly it's not a difficult scam for other groups to replicate in other American cities, or indeed elsewhere in the world.

As a consequence, you might be wiser paying for your parking meter with cash or via the appropriate smartphone app.

Authorities are encouraging anyone who believes that they might have been scammed by the fraudulent parking meter QR codes to file a police report, and inform their payment card issuer immediately.

Meanwhile, if you see someone tampering with a parking meter, who is not a badged city employee, do the right thing and call the police.

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