(VIDEO) Fake parking tickets worry WA police

| November 19, 2013

Fake parking tickets, complete with police department logos on their letterheads, are becoming a source of worry for police in Bremerton, Washington. Though the motive behind these bogus tickets is still unclear, Police Chief, Steve Strachan says such cases threaten the integrity of his department.

Investigators suspect an impostor, motive unclear

At least two drivers have reported these fake parking tickets stuck on their car windshields. Drivers who received these bogus tickets had parked their vehicles at a city-owned parking garage near the ferry terminal. It is clear that neither the officers nor the parking vendor issued these tickets, so the police now suspect it to be a work of an imposter.

This blatant use of the police department’s official logos is what’s most worrying to Chief Steve Strachan. He says, “Sometimes you hear about people impersonating officers themselves to commit a crime, and this is basically a version of that.”

Amateurish, riddled with grammatical mistakes, and what looks like a screenshot from the internet, the letter warns drivers to pay up or risk towing of their vehicles. Chief Strachan points out that the people who got these tickets had already paid the parking costs for that day.

“They are representing themselves as a government agency. That is a crime and that is the difference here,” he explains. The Chief says that such incidents may create confusion among residents. Officials are still investigating the motive behind this act.

Bremerton residents should approach city officials to report the tickets if they find one on their own windshield.

Problem of fake parking tickets is not a new one

In late 2012, the City of Raleigh in North Carolina fell victim to a suspected college prank when drivers in downtown began getting fake parking tickets. Although the tickets had the city’s official seal, spelling errors gave them away.

A fake parking ticket scam was also reported in Wisconsin in May this year. A couple of residents were asked to pay parking fines amounting to $35 and $50 through mail. NBC26 reports that the mailing address came from a Milwaukee post office. The residents received letters from “Parking Collection Services” claiming that they had parked illegally.

Some municipalities use services of outside collection agencies for delinquent accounts. Imposters can pose as officials of one of these agencies and dupe unsuspecting residents. Even when a municipality does not employ the services of an outside collection agency, the possibility of a scam still lurks.

Mary Scanlan, who manages Green Bay’s parking ramps, gives some valuable tips: drivers should double check the license plate number and the description of the vehicle for every ticket. “I would call the municipality prior to payment and say hey is this legit,” she says.

Fake parking tickets that hurt your wallet…and your computer

There are high chances that people end up mailing the money to some PO box number provided in the citation. In other cases, these citations can misguide people into installing malicious software. Drivers in Grand Forks, North Dakota found parking tickets on their vehicles’ windshields that instructed them to visit a website where “drivers could view pictures with information about your parking preferences.” For this, users downloaded a toolbar, which was actually a Trojan virus.

To avoid falling prey to such scams, verify validity of the ticket by confirming the license plate number and other details. Check which local parking authority has issued the ticket, and never navigate through unfamiliar sites or call on fake numbers provided on these tickets.

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