Police in Santa Cruz, California, have arrested 19-year-old Damian Vela for making fake parking tickets. Vela placed the fake tickets on cars near the beach in Santa Cruz. Each one had a QR code that directed victims to a website where they could pay for the bogus citation.
The teenager is charged with unlawful use of a computer system and attempted fraud, police said. While it seems he was only able to distribute these one night, the police are still unsure how many he distributed or how many victims fell for it. Vela is denying receiving any payments.
The Santa Cruz Police warned citizens of the scam via a tweet where they showed a side-by-side comparison of the tickets.
As you can see, the two look nothing alike. But to be fair the increased holiday traffic probably resulted in more people that would be willing to just pay the fine, for fear of ruining their holidays. Even most locals probably aren’t receiving so many parking tickets that they could immediately identify what a real one looked like.
While modern convinces like QR codes and automated pay systems have certainly made life easier. They can also lead us not to question things too heavily, which is exactly what scams like this prey upon. Scammers know most people won’t go through the bureaucratic nightmare of fighting a ticket. So they bank on victims just using less fussy digital avenues to settle these issues. Had anyone gone to the police department they would have known right away this wasn’t real, but:
The fraudulent tickets having circa 2000 clipart kind of lends to their…authenticity. Most local governments aren’t known for being overly concerned with graphic design, as you can see from the real tickets. While they look less like a flyer for a bake sale, they are not really attractive either.
Bottom line, if you think something seems off either call and try to speak with an agent. Or go to an office/police department to verify with an employee if possible.