Scammers Exploit QR Codes in Fake Parking Ticket Scheme

  • Fraudulent parking tickets with QR codes that link to victims’ bank accounts have been found on vehicles across the US
  • Motorists are advised to verify the authenticity of parking tickets through the issuing agency’s website before making any payments, and to be cautious when dealing with QR codes requesting payment.

Scammers are now using QR codes to deceive unsuspecting motorists with fake parking tickets in both the United States and the United Kingdom. A Reddit user recently posted a photo of a fraudulent parking ticket that they found on their windshield in San Francisco. The ticket, which claimed to be issued by the city government, featured a QR code that linked directly to the victim’s bank account.

Interestingly, the date on the fake ticket was in the future, which should have served as a warning sign. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) confirmed that scammers have been leaving bogus parking tickets on vehicles throughout the city. The fake tickets instruct drivers to pay immediately using a QR code to make their payment.

Fake parking ticket. Credit: Reddit

Stephen Chun, a spokesman for SFMTA, could not confirm how many people reported the fake tickets. He advised drivers to verify the authenticity of a ticket by looking it up on the agency’s website. Genuine tickets will have a blue logo and “SFMTA” printed at the top.

The SFMTA is currently working to track down the individuals responsible for this scam. In the meantime, parking enforcement agents have been instructed to remove and collect any fake citations they encounter as potential evidence.

How to spot a fake parking ticket

To spot a fake parking ticket, be suspicious of citations received in private parking lots, as these are more likely to be scams. Most parking citations should direct you to an official city website for payment processing, so be cautious if the ticket asks for payment through a peer-to-peer app or a non-governmental website. Always double-check the organization issuing the citation, and contact them directly through their official website to verify the ticket’s legitimacy.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends the following best practices to avoid parking ticket scams:

  1. Research local parking laws and requirements, as tourists and out-of-state vehicles are often targeted.
  2. Examine the citation carefully, comparing it to the city’s official parking ticket website. Check for accurate logos, phone numbers, and URLs.
  3. If paying by check, ensure it is made out to a specific government organization, not a string of initials or a person’s name.
  4. Always pay with a credit card for added security, as fraudulent charges can be reversed. Avoid using peer-to-peer apps, debit, cash, or checks, as these payment methods are difficult to recover.