Police in Santa Cruz, California, recently arrested a 19-year-old they say was putting fake parking tickets on cars at the beach to collect fraudulent payments.
According to the Santa Cruz Police Department, the fraudulent citations contained a QR code and a link to a website as the payment methods.
The accused, Damian Vela of Watsonville, California, was charged with unlawful use of a computer system and attempted fraud. Vela denied that he accepted any payments, but investigators say there could be victims in the scam.
Police departments from across the country have reported similar parking ticket swindles in the past. In 2016, D.C. police reported on a phishing scam using “overdue parking violations” as a pretext to bait victims into paying. Police in Florida and Missouri have also warned of similar scams in the past.
Pensacola police alerted residents in 2017 of an email phishing scam telling recipients that a court appearance was required and listing a parking ticket number. The person was then directed to a pay the parking fine via a link that accepted Visa or Mastercard payments.
In Jefferson City, the department issued a bulletin this year warning about unofficial parking tickets being placed on vehicles requesting payment.
In each instance, the scams involved emails, text messages or fake printed tickets.
Experts say many people do not question parking tickets when they get them and just pay them.
“There is a certain arbitrariness about parking tickets, and scammers take advantage of that,” consumer advocate Christopher Elliott told CBS. “You get a ticket on your windshield, and you’re likely to just pay it.”