Parking lots can be surprisingly hectic. Between all the people walking to or from their vehicles, there is also a lot of chaotic traffic as cars come in and out of rooms. In addition to an unattended shopping trolley in the blind spot, they can also harbor other dangers. And now police are warning that you should never get out of your car if that one thing is happening in a parking lot. Read on to learn how to protect yourself on your next errands.
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Being safe in the car has always meant being aware of your surroundings and obeying the traffic rules. But aside from accidents, your vehicle could also put you at risk for scammers and other criminals who might want to take advantage of you — especially in parking lots.
Last summer, officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia, said they received reports of fake parking tickets left on people’s cars. Although intended to look authentic and using official-sounding language resembling local quotes, the notes actually contained a QR code that directed drivers to a fake fine collection website, where they unknowingly entered their payment information.
Other scammers have taken to using the same technology in other ways. Late last year, San Antonio police warned of a scam involving QR codes hang on parking meters Prompting drivers to pay for their space through a website. In reality, the fake site collected users’ personal financial information in order to commit impersonation fraud.
Even more recent scams have relied on more traditional methods to trick unsuspecting victims. Earlier this year, police in Wilkes-Barre Township, Pennsylvania, issued a warning against scammers trying to sell counterfeit jewelry and fake watches to people making their way back to their cars. But now police are warning of another possible scam making the rounds.
The importance of paying attention to your surroundings on the way back to your car is a well-known safety tip. But in some cases, even people who appear to be offering help could target you for a crime. Last week, police in Framingham, Massachusetts said they received a call from a woman who said she was robbed after coming to Target from a shopping spree, local ABC affiliate WCVB reports.
“As I was about to turn around, they knocked on the window. It was a gentleman [on the driver’s side] tell me there is something wrong with my tyre” Eileen Savoy said the news agency. “So I rolled down my window and said, ‘What do you mean there’s something wrong with my tire?'”
She explains that the man then told her that a substance appeared to be leaking from her rear tire. However, she soon learned that the person was anything but a Good Samaritan.
“They sprayed my tires with – I think it was balsamic vinegar – which made it look like brake grease. Just to distract me,” she said. “While he was distracting me to get out of the car and check the tire, another guy was on the right side of my car. He must have gone in and got my wallet out of my purse without my even knowing.”
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Unfortunately, this is not the first version of a parking tire scam reported by victims. In 2019, residents of El Segundo, California, reported a spate of similar crimes in which pairs of criminals waited in parking lots after flattening a vehicle’s rear tire.
As soon as the car’s owner returned, a scammer alerted the driver to the problem before offering to help. But while they were distracted, the second scammer took the opportunity to steal items from the vehicle, with one person reporting losing $1,000, local news site Daily Breeze reported.
After the ordeal, Savoia said the scammers tried unsuccessfully to withdraw cash using her debit card, but were unable to access the funds without her PIN. She now says people should be on their guard, warning: ‘The holidays are coming. You are out there. Scammers are out there.”
Authorities are also now warning the public to be on the lookout for similar parking tire scams in their area and to report any incidents. “Someone may have seen these two individuals in this parking lot… Give us a call. Let us know Sean Riley said WCVB. “They move around. So this is not just geared towards Framingham.”
The El Segundo Police Department issued its own alert in response to the 2019 spike in incidents, reminding residents to “be aware of your surroundings when walking to a bank or other retail outlet,” the department said in a warning via Daily Breeze. “If a stranger tries to get your attention to let you know that one of your tires is flat, be aware that you may be the target of a scam.”
“This is an old scam used by thieves and it seems to be making a comeback so be careful!” added the department.