Consumer Alert: That parking ticket could be a fake! Here’s how to spot one

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This consumer alert is about a scam that is wickedly genius. Crooks are putting fake parking tickets on cars and stealing your money and identity. And the look surprisingly authentic.

Thieves are using high-tech hand-held printers that could fool almost anyone. Many of the tickets warn that a penalty will be applied after a short number of days. That’s to get you to pay it quickly without examining the ticket further.

The Better Business of Upstate New York warns that fake tickets are ending up on windshields all across the country and right here in New York. The Tompkins County Sheriff’s office recently released an image of fake parking tickets that were showing up on vehicles in Ithaca. They looked completely authentic, complete with a section for the license number as well as the make and model of the car.

Matt Krueger with the BBB of Upstate New York recently got a fake ticket while vacationing in Philadelphia.

“I go out to my car and there’s a ticket on the windshield, and I think this is unusual,” Krueger recalled. “And I check to see that I’m not parked in an illegal spot, but I was fine. And I examined the ticket more closely and things don’t start to add up. It looked very official on the outside, but once I started reading it, it wasn’t authentic. They were asking me to pay on a Cash App, and I said there is not a municipality in this country that wants you to pay a traffic fine on a Cash App!”

That was the big red flag. Some scammers use a QR code, and when you pay they also take your banking information and clean out your account. Others ask you to go to a website. So carefully examine any parking ticket. Look at the website. Does it end with .gov.? If it doesn’t, it’s a fake.

Also, if they ask for payment through a peer to peer payment app like Cash App, Venmo or PayPal, it’s a fake. The BBB advises us to always pay a parking ticket with a credit card, not debit card, because your credit card has more protections.