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Watch Out for These 6 Parking Scams

Cristina POPOV

June 13, 2024

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Watch Out for These 6 Parking Scams

Parking fees and tickets may be inconvenient for many drivers, but they serve an important purpose: to enforce local parking regulations and maintain order on the streets. However, parking scams serve no purpose other than to line the scammers' pockets.

Cybercriminals use technology to exploit the system and trick unsuspecting drivers into paying them money.

For example, they can make fake tickets and leave them on your car's windshield with a request to pay online or via PayPal. In other cases, they provide fake QR codes to direct you to a fake payment website or send emails claiming they have a pending parking ticket. If you follow the instructions in either version of the scam, you'll end up paying a fine you don't owe or think you paid for your parking, but you didn't and then get a ticket. In addition, your personal information will be captured by scammers.

Related: BBB warns consumers of a sharp increase in QR code parking scams

Here's a guide to understanding how parking scams work, recognizing the most common ones, and protecting yourself from becoming a victim.

Top most 6 reported parking lot scams you should know about

  1. Fake Windshield Tickets

Scammers who use advanced, portable printers to create fake parking tickets. They place these false tickets on cars, leading unsuspecting drivers to pay fines online or through services like PayPal. Some fake tickets even have a QR code that takes victims to a scam payment website. If you follow these instructions, you'll end up paying a fine you don't owe, and the scammers could steal your personal information.

Related: PayPal Text Scams: How to Spot and Avoid Them

2. Bogus Parking Attendants

In this scam, an attendant directs you to a nearby lot upon your arrival at an event. You pay for your parking spot and receive a payment stub as proof of purchase. However, when the event ends, you discover that the person who directed you to park was a scammer in a fake uniform. They took your money and vanished, leaving your car parked illegally. The real owner of the lot had your car towed.

Related: How To Spot and Avoid Tech Support Scams

3. Fake QR Codes

Scammers place fake QR code stickers on parking meters or other parking signage. Unsuspecting drivers scan these codes, thinking they are legitimate, and end up making payments to the scammers. These fake QR codes can be stickers placed over the real codes, making it hard to detect fraud at first glance.

Related: Take a moment before scanning that QR code! It could contain a harmful link.

4. SMS Scams

Scammers use text messages, a tactic known as smishing, to deceive you into thinking you have an outstanding parking ticket that requires immediate payment. These messages often contain a link to a fake payment site. For example, you might receive a message saying: "Your unpaid parking ticket needs to be resolved today. Please pay immediately at ...".

It's important to note that parking tickets cannot be paid via text message, and legitimate authorities will not ask for payment in this manner. Always be cautious of suspicious-looking text messages and avoid clicking on any links or providing personal information such as passwords.

Related: Scammer phone number lookup. How to check if a phone number is a scam

5. Phishing Emails and Websites

Another common scam involves emails that falsely appear to be from local parking authorities, asserting that you have an unpaid parking ticket. The fake email tickets may include links to photos, payment options, and an appeal process. It's essential not to click on these links, as they could contain malware. Scammers often create counterfeit websites that request your financial information. If a website seems suspicious in any way, avoid using it. It's crucial to check the URL of the website to confirm that it's the legitimate application you intended to use. For example, if you're using "ParkMobile" and the URL appears as https://park-space.xyz, it could be a fraudulent link. The correct ParkMobile web app URL should always begin with app.parkmobile.io. If you have any doubts, close your browser and directly access the parking app or website.

Related: How to Spot and Report Email Scams

6. Bogus Parking App Scams

Scammers create fake parking apps that imitate legitimate ones. They may send download links via email or direct you to third-party sites. These fraudulent apps can steal your payment information or install malware on your device.

How to protect yourself from parking scams

To avoid falling victim to parking scams, follow these steps:

  • Verify the Ticket: Check for official logos and contact information on the ticket, and compare it with known details of your local parking authority. If in doubt, contact the authority directly using information from their official website.
  • Be Wary of Emails and Texts: Treat any unsolicited communication about parking tickets with suspicion. Avoid clicking on links or providing personal information. Instead, visit the official parking authority website to verify any claims.
  • Check any QR Codes with Scamio before scanning: When dealing with QR codes, it can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between a genuine code and a fake one unless they are clearly placed on top of one another. That's why we advise scanning them first using Scamio. This will help you determine whether they are legitimate or a scam. Additionally, you have the option to submit any texts, messages, links, or images to Scamio for analysis to check for potential scams.

Scamio is free and available on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and your web browser. You can also help others stay safe by sharing Scamio with them in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Romania, Australia, and the UK.

  • Use Official Apps: Only download parking apps from official app stores or the parking authority's website. Be cautious of third-party sites or download links sent via email.
  • Pay for parking and fines with a credit card when possible. This will make it easier to dispute fraudulent charges if you are scammed.
  • Monitor Your Finances: Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions.
  • Use a digital identity monitoring service like Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection to receive alerts if your personal data appears on the public or dark web or if someone is attempting to steal your identity.
  • Report Scams: If you experience a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report helps warn others about the scams in the marketplace.


Q: How can I tell if a parking ticket is real or fake?

A: Verify the ticket by checking for official logos and contact information. Compare these details with known information from the local parking authority's website. Legitimate government sites usually end in .gov, and secure payment pages will have a secure connection.

Q: What should I do if I receive a suspicious text message about a parking ticket?

A: Do not click any links or provide personal information. Parking tickets cannot be paid via text message. Verify the claim by contacting the local parking authority directly through their official website.

Q: How can I safely use QR codes for parking payments?

A: Before scanning a QR code, inspect it to ensure it's not a sticker placed over the original. It's safer to manually enter the website of a known and trusted parking service provider. Avoid using QR codes from unknown sources or suspicious locations.



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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