How the scam works:
There are two variations of this scam:
Scenario 1. You make a stop to pick something up and park in a place which seems fine for a few minutes. Upon return you already have a parking ticket in your windshield.
The issuer is a department of your city's administrative offices and they ask you to pay online - that looks perfectly normal. The trouble is that the scammers have become increasingly sophisticated - the ticket looked official enough and the website for paying looks fine, but it's a scam.
Scenario 2. The fine comes in the mail. You receive an envelope from the “Parking Collection Services” (or something named similar, according to your city administrative structure) claiming that you owe $35 or $50 for an authorized parking in one of your local parking lots. The name of the lot could be mentioned or not.
The mailing lists a post office box as an address. The letter claims to be a “notice of Assignment to a Collection Agency” for these fines. You are either required to call the number on the letter. If you do, the scammers will ask for payment over the phone.
How to avoid:
For Scenario 1, check that the website starts with "https" in the browser (look for the letter "s" at the end of "http", as every secure payment website has this). If in doubt, call the city and inquire about the authenticity of the ticket you received.
When it comes to payments over the phone, you have to know all the details before you call. Don't use the number listed on the phony letter, but rather call your city's parking department by searching for their number online, on the city's official website.
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