Steer Clear of These Common Parking Scams

Parking Lot

It can be a tough road maneuvering around scams. And it doesn't get any easier when you're just parking. Consider these six ploys:

Movie violations. Crooks wait in movie theater parking lots and after you go inside, they break into your car - specifically to glean your address from the vehicle registration and then go burglarize your home with a two-hour window of opportunity. Keep your vehicle registration, as well as your GPS and other valuables, in a locked glove compartment, which the crooks may be too rushed into break into. Or carry them with you.

Fake tickets. Scammers place authentic-looking but phony parking tickets on your car, directing you to a website where you're told you can pay the fine and get details of the alleged violation. Think twice unless it ends with .gov or .org; clicking can automatically install malware on your computer. Even  better, first type the website address onto a search engine to determine if it's a bona fide parking authority agency.

Past-due deception. Another fake ticket fake-out comes in the mail, with bogus past-due notices demanding payment. This sporadic scheme recently rebounded in Wisconsin, where residents received mailed notices demanding payment for fraudulent fines along with threats that the debt would to be turned over to collection agencies. A phone call to the issuing entity, after looking up the number yourself, is your clue if the fine is true. And know it's unlikely that a legitimate fine will be turned over to a collection agency before you receive one or more warnings from the police.

Parking lot posers. Is that attendant at a self-park lot a legitimate employee - or some crook seeking a quick buck? Summer is prime season for phony lot attendants, who typically ask for upfront payment. Although legit ones also do, you should see signs saying that's the rule. Also look for "Attendant on Duty" signs, as well as a phone number to call if you have doubts. Before paying, check out the ticket the attendant hands you for company name, location and prices.

Phony lots. You drive up to a stadium or other event venue and someone directs you to a nearby lot. After paying in advance, you collect a claim check for your car, only to return from the festivities and find that your ride is gone. Reason: The attendant took the money and ran - and the lot's real owner called a towing company. When parking near any venue, stick to lots with real signs - not "Park Here" painted on plywood - and ideally, with booths and uniformed attendants that indicate legitimacy.

Car rescue and repair scams. Often targeting older folks, these involve Good Samaritans who "just happen" to be in the parking lot when your car won't start. But don't be hoodwinked into  having them look under the hood. While you were in the store, it's possible they disabled your car, by such steps as disconnecting an electrical cable. And their quick fix is aimed at getting quick cash. Better to call AAA, police or a handy friend.

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr


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