Parking Ticket Scams

The Precedent Was Established by Older Vehicle-Related Frauds

You saw the headline and assumed this was a joke, right? Well it isn’t. You’ve got to give scammers credit for thinking up something like this and carrying it out.

The parking ticket scam apparently began, as many big dreams do, in New York City. And if it can make it there, it can make it anywhere. After all, this is the city where an average of two tourists a week used to buy the Brooklyn Bridge over a century ago.

They already became a big headache in the Big Apple by 2010, but the precedent was established long before by other vehicle-related frauds predate that. Towing Scams

One veteran rip-off, for example, is the towing scam, which especially targets tourists with out-of-state plates. You park your car in a lot for a specific amount of time but show up a few minutes late only to discover that it’s not there. A tow truck moved it a few minutes earlier and you’re now being expected to pay what seems like an exorbitant amount to remove the wheel clamp plus another exorbitant amount for the towing and storage fee. The law, unbeknownst to you, limits those fees to $62.50 and $125 respectively. You don’t know that, however, because you’re from out of town, and the unethical tow truck driver knows it.

Parking Ticket Malware

The parking ticket scam is a variation on the theme that uses technology much more advanced than a tow truck hook or chain. It now arrives directly in an email ostensibly sent by the New York City Department of Finance. That sounds ominous, so you open it, but as soon as you do it uploads malware to your computer.

The malware takes one of two forms. One version allows the scammers to steal your personal information, including credit card and bank account numbers, for the purposes of committing identity theft. When your next credit card or bank statement arrives, you’ll find unauthorized charges or withdrawals. Notify your credit card company or bank immediately. You will not be held responsible for any unauthorized credit or debit card charges exceeding $50 as long as you notify the bank within 60 days. Similar limits may apply to unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts, but those vary according to national regulations and legislation.

A second version of the parking ticket malware locks your computer and prevents you from using it until you pay a ransom. In that case, you either pay it or buy a new computer, preferably one uploaded with malware protection.

By 2014 parking ticket scams began to appear in Illinois, especially in the Chicago area, where victims were contacted at first by phone. But the most brazen permutation was in 2016, when fake meter maids were caught on surveillance cameras filling out fake $60 parking tickets and leaving them on window shields.

Parking Ticket Scams in Washington, D.C.

Also in 2016, the parking ticket scam arrived in the nation’s capital. In May of that year, the Department of Motor Vehicles of the District of Columbia warned drivers to be aware of a phishing scam to collect money from past due parking tickets. Drivers randomly receive an email supposedly issued by the “DC Parking Authority” (which doesn’t exist) that has “Notice of Overdue Parking Violation(s)” in the subject line. The email informs them that supposedly have fines that are past due and, if they don’t pay them immediately, their vehicle will be impounded. They are directed to a phony website that enables them to pay by credit card.

Additional parking scam venues have been reported throughout New Jersey.

International Parking Ticket Scams

By November 2016 parking ticket malware had also reached Britain. Motorists began receiving emails entitled “Parking Charge Reminder” supposedly sent by a legitimate company called UK Parking Control Ltd., informing them that they received a ticket for having parked on private land. Victims are instructed to click on “payment options and photos” for more information, which surreptitiously enables the malware to upload onto their computers.

Variations of parking ticket scams have also been reported in countries as far apart as Melbourne, Australia and Dryden, Ontario in Canada. In Melbourne, the fake emails are supposedly sent by Global Parking Solutions and carry the logo of Impark, a Canadian parking management company.

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