Scammers put fake QR codes on parking meters to intercept payments from punters

Illustration of a parking meter and a warning not to scan QR codes on meters.
Enlarge / Image of City of Austin warning to ignore QR code stickers on parking meters.

Scammers in a few major cities in Texas have put fake QR codes on parking meters to trick people into paying fraudsters. Parking enforcement officers recently found stickers with fraudulent QR codes at pay kiosks in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

Saint-Antoine Police warned the public of the scam on December 20, claiming that “people attempting to pay for parking using these QR codes may have been directed to a scam website and submitted a payment to a scam seller.” Similar scams were later discovered in Austin and Houston.

The Austin Department of Transportation began examining its own meters after being “notified of a QR code scam by the city of San Antonio in late December, when more than 100 pay stations were tagged with fraudulent codes.” . Fox 7 Austin reported last week. Austin officials checked the city’s 900 or so parking kiosks and found fraudulent QR codes on 29 of them, according to a KXAN article.

The fake QR codes allegedly directed people to a “Quick Pay Parking” website on the passportlab.xyz domain, which is now offline. It is not known how many people, if any, were tricked into paying the fraudsters.

City does not use QR codes, they are too easy to forge

“We don’t use QR codes at all for this very reason, because they’re easy to tamper with or place on devices,” Jason Redfern, Austin parking manager, told KXAN. “And we’ve heard from industry leaders that that would be a possibility.” Austin accepts payments directly at the meter with coins or credit or with the Park ATX mobile payment application.

Austin city officials said in a Press release that they “continue to inspect the city’s more than 900 payment terminals to ensure that no additional QR codes are being used.” Austin urged people to call 911 if they see someone without a city employee badge tampering with a payment terminal. “Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a credit card violation due to recent parking meter payments should file a police report and immediately notify their card issuer,” the city also said.

Houston officials found five yards with fake QR codes and removed the stickers, according to KPRC 2. Like Austin, Houston does not use QR codes on parking meters but does offer a payment app.

Although the scam appears to have been centered in Texas, it could repeat itself anywhere. If you see a QR code on a parking meter, ignore it and be sure to pay the city directly.

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