APD: Fraudulent QR codes found on Austin public parking meters

Crime

AUSTIN (KXAN) — QR code stickers on City of Austin public parking meters could have people paying a fraudulent vendor.

QR codes that take you to a fraudulent vendor to pay parking fees are popping up in downtown Austin. (APD photo)

The Austin Police Department said Financial Crimes detectives are investigating after fraudulent QR code stickers were found on parking meters. Officials said that people attempting to pay for parking using those QR codes may have been directed to a fraudulent website and submitted payment to a fraudulent vendor.

The codes, which are designed for people to scan with their smartphone cameras and take them to a specific website, aren’t used by any city agency, the city said. When the codes are scanned, they take people to the fraudulent domain “passportlab.xyz.”

APD said 20 stickers have been found on the following streets:

  • West Third
  • East and West Fourth
  • East and West Fifth
  • West Sixth
  • West Seventh
  • West Eighth
  • West Ninth
  • Nueces
  • San Jacinto

Jason Redfern, parking division manager for the Austin Transporation Department, said workers checked more than 900 parking pay stations to make sure the codes aren’t on the meters. Of the 900 meters checked, approximately 29 of them had the fraudulent QR codes, he said.

“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.

Redfern added that if someone received a parking ticket after paying a fraudulent QR code for city parking, they are advised to contest the citation to have it nullified or voided.

Anyone who believes they were a victim of credit card breach as a result of a recent parking meter payment is asked to file a police report by calling 3-1-1 or going to this website. Just remember — don’t take a picture of the QR code or hold your cellphone anywhere near it.

“Absolutely do not take a picture of it or use your camera anywhere near that QR code,” he said. “But if you call Austin 3-1-1, they will get word to us that that there is a possible scam happening there.”

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