A scammer has been placing fake QR codes on parking meter kiosks in several major U.S. cities so they could be tricked into giving them their credit card info. Recently, parking enforcement officers discovered fake QR code stickers at some parking meters in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and elsewhere. On December 20th, San Antonio Police Department issued an alert warning citizens about a similar scam involving people trying to use their smartphones’ cameras to scan QR codes at parking meters. Similar scams were later reported by authorities in Austin and Houston.
After receiving reports from the city of San Antonio regarding fake QR codes appearing at several bus shelters, the Austin Transportation Department began investigating its own meter readers. Officials from Austin City Hall checked its 900 or so parking pay machines and discovered fraudulent QR codes on 29 out of them, according to an article by KXAN News. Fake QR Codes led some people to an online parking lot called QuickPayParking.com, but the site has been taken down. It isn’t clear how many people were actually tricked by these scammers.
We don’t use QR codes for this very reason; they’re easily faked or placed on our meters. And we’ve heard from industry leaders that people might attempt to cheat us by doing so. So we decided not to accept them. Instead, we take cash (or credit) at the meter using coins or the Park ATX mobile app.
Officials at the Austin Police Department say they’re continuing to investigate whether any new types of payment cards may be used by criminals. If anyone sees an unauthorized user trying to tamper with one of the city’s nearly 1,000 pay stations, please contact us right away so we can take care of things quickly. Any person who thinks he/she was victimized because of recent parking meter payments should report it to his/her bank immediately.
Officials at Houston International Airport discovered five meters with fake QR code stickers and took them down. Unlike Austin, Houston doesn’t use QR codes on its parking meters but offers an alternative method for paying using a mobile phone application. It appears that the scam has been centered in Texas but may occur elsewhere too. Don’t use an app to scan a QR code from a parking meter; instead, just go up to the cashier at the booth next door and pay for your ticket there.