We’ve all been there. A person is in Fargo or the Twin Cities, or elsewhere goes into a store or function or meeting and comes back out to find a ticket or citation placed under the wipers on a windshield.
Usually most people will immediately pay these parking violation tickets without hesitation.
However, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota say a new scam is making the rounds and taking advantage of people with fake tickets that can look completely legitimate and say it could be a scam if you receive a parking ticket and are confident that you parked legally.
In a recent release from the BBB, vice president of communications, Bao Vang, said the scam works like this: You park in a legal parking zone or pay to park on the street or in a garage. While you are away from your car, scammers use high-tech, hand-held printers to make a fake ticket and leave it on your car's windshield. The phony citation usually asks you to pay online or via PayPal.
Vang said in one recent case, a scammer used a QR code to direct victims to a fake payment website. If a person then follows the instructions, they will end up paying a fine they don't owe.
Vang mentioned an even worse scenario that is added to the already illegal practice is that personal information will now be in the hands of scammers who may try to sell or further exploit the person.
Another driver also reported another experience to BBB: "I paid $15 to park in a garage and received a receipt for it, which I displayed on my dashboard. However, I then received a violation notice for $56 for the parking receipt not being visible on the dashboard."
Vang said in other versions of the parking scam, an individual will receive an email claiming they have a pending parking ticket. Scammers typically include official-looking logos and argue there will be dire consequences if you don't pay. If the individual clicks on links in the email, malware can be downloaded to your computer.
The BBB gave a few tips to avoid this scam while you are traveling and need to park.
- Before visiting a new place, research available parking and local parking requirements. Tourists with out-of-state plates are often the preferred target for parking scams because they need to familiarize themselves with local parking laws.
- Scammers can imitate logos and city office names, but an imitation website is usually where the scam comes to light. Do an internet search for the city's official parking ticket websites and compare what you find to what's on the ticket. For those making trips to Winnipeg or other Canadian locations, keep in mind that government sites should end in a .gov or .ca (in Canada) designation and if there is a payment page, it should always have a secure connection.
- If the ticket allows for payment by check, take a closer look at the address the check should be sent and how it should be addressed. Checks should generally be made to a specific government organization, not a string of initials or personal names.
- It will be easier to contest fraudulent charges if you discover you've been scammed down the road.
Vang also said If you've been the victim of a parking ticket scam, whether you lost money or not, to report it immediately at the BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/ScamTracker.