Municipal leaders across the country are warning drivers not to use QR codes stuck on to parking pay stations. Such QR codes are easily faked, and it seems scammers used them to soak up unsuspecting people’s parking fees, along with their credit card information, in some of the largest cities in the U.S.
The QR code scam hit parking pay stations in the Texas cities of Austin, Houston and San Antonio last week. Drivers who scanned the QR code were directed to a now-defunct website with the extra scammy name passportlab.xyz, KXAN reported. They were then directed to enter their credit card information and pay for parking using a dummy site:
“We don’t use QR codes at all for this very reason, because they are easy to fake or place on the devices,” Redfern said. “And we heard from industry leaders that this would be a possibility.”
Redfern said city leaders were first notified of fake QR parking meter codes parking up in San Antonio, before they made their way to Austin. Payment is only accepted directly at the meter or via the Park ATX smartphone app, not a QR code, the agency said.
Austin police are investigating the stickers, and Austin Transportation Department workers are double checking all 900 pay stations around the city in order to remove any remaining fraudulent QR code stickers. San Antonio police, who first discovered the QR codes, are asking anyone affected by the scam to file a police report and lock down their credit card information immediately. It seems officials in the affected cities are also urging drivers to contest any parking tickets they may have received as a result of the scam.
The easiest way to protect yourself from such a scam is to never enter credit card information into an untrustworthy website, and that includes ones that you’ve reached via QR code. QR codes are ridiculously easy to fake, which is why you won’t find any city using them to accept payments. Most cities, for example — certainly very large ones like Houston and Austin — have specific secure parking payment apps as well as kiosks that accept payment. It’s such an easy scam that police are already alerting the public to the possibility that it might pop up in their city, like Boston police did yesterday.