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Front Page » May 12, 2009 » Carbon County News » Vehicle parking scams proliferate across U.S.
Published 2,050 days ago

Vehicle parking scams proliferate across U.S.


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

It would seem that parking a car in a lot or alongside the street could never be the center of a scam. Afterall, what is more simple and straight forward?

But in recent weeks, a number of vehicle parking scams have come to light around the country that could cost individuals large amounts of money with no recourse for any chance of return.

While most of the scams are taking place in large cities, some are being done in smaller towns and even rural areas.

Some of the scams are fairly low tech, but effective for the scammers who can make a great deal of cash on their work quickly.

Others involve computers which, when caught in the scam, can cost the parker a lot of money.

When visiting a pay parking lot or garage, Carbon County residents should always be suspicious of attendants asking for money up front unless they are in the pay booth.

In some cases, supposed attendants have taken money from people and, when the consumers return to the lot, they find their cars have been towed away or immobilized by boots.

Criminals used to target lot cash boxes that an individual slides money through the slot into the marked space. But many of the boxes have been converted to credit/debit card boxes which has made them more secure.

But these new electronic boxes offer a new opportunity for crooks as they often tell people parking their vehicles that the credit card machine inside the box is not operating properly or they are out of order and that the person needs to pay in person. One good way to check to see if the person is on the up and up is to go look and make sure the machine is down, and not working.

Some scammers even give receipts, but make sure those receipts are correct and proper. Often scammers can get receipts from other parking lots by buying them with a stolen credit card. Check to see the date on the receipt and make sure it is from the lot that the vehicle is being parked in. Also make sure the amount of money you paid is reflected on that receipt; various lots have different prices and that could be a tip off that one has been scammed. And be sure to always ask for a receipt; many scammers aren't prepared to give people one.

Some sure ways to check for scammers is to watch for signs that say there is no attendant on duty. If one shows up suddenly while that sign is displayed, be wary. Also look for some kind of uniform or logo that signifies the person actually works at the lot.

The fact is that parking lot owners do not know if a customer has been ripped off or not. They often charge for towing the vehicle or for booting it. In many ways they are victims of this scam too.

The other side of parking scams is a bit more high tech, because it involves a computer.Scammers will go through a parking lot, or to cars parked along a street and put what looks to be parking tickets on the windshields. The ticket often has a website that the person who returns to the car can go to review the alleged violation of parking in that area. Those websites often have virus' that can infect the computer the person is using in a number of different ways.

First the viral problem may include spyware that can capture key strokes so that a scammer can get into bank or financial accounts. Viruses can also be used to enslave a computer, turning it into a "bot" to spread spam or to get access to other websites that one may visit from time to time.

Probably one of the largest scams is that when the person goes to the site on the ticket to see their violation, they find a warning that says their computer has been infected with a virus, and that the site offers anti-viral software for a very low price. However, what purchasers of that software get is a program that does absolutely nothing.

There are a number of give aways concerning this type of scam. First, look at where the car is parked and look at the ticket for the details of the violation; if there is nothing but a website to go to, be suspicious. Also if official tickets do have websites listed on them, particularly when the violation came on a municipal street, any website will almost always end with .gov. Most scammers use a .com website.

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