Are you in a rush to find a parking spot? Don’t want to go into your pocket for cash to pay the parking meter, and you don’t have the right payment app on your phone?
So, think twice before scanning the payment QR code on the side of the meter – it could be a phishing attempt by criminals.
Police in Austin, Texas, are advising that bogus QR codes have been detected on public parking meters. Parking meters in Austin do not display QR codes and only accept payment by coins, cards, or a smartphone app.
So, what happens if unwary visitors to the city or people in a hurry scan the bogus QR code without thinking?
The Austin police department discovered QR codes that lead unsuspecting visitors to a bogus website that asked for payment information under the false promise that their parking session would be paid for.
After officials in San Antonio alerted the city of Austin to a similar QR code fraud, the city reviewed its parking meters. In late December, they discovered over 100 parking meters with similar stickers.
The webpage appeared to take payment for the parking session, according to Lt Marcus Booth of the San Antonio Police Department, but the money ended up in the hands of scammers rather than the city’s coffers.
To summarize, not only car drivers, but also the city, are victims of thievery.
It’s unclear whether the attacks on parking meters in the two cities are linked or if they’re the work of copycats. However, it’s evident that other groups could easily imitate the scheme in other American towns, or even around the world.
As a result, you may be better off paying for your parking meter with cash or via a smartphone app.
Authorities are urging anyone who believes they have been defrauded by the counterfeit parking meter QR codes to submit a police report and immediately notify their payment card issuer.
Meanwhile, if you observe someone who is not a badged city employee fiddling with a parking meter, do the right thing and notify the cops.