Rise of QR fraudsters exploiting car parks going cashless

Brazen: Scammers have stuck a printed QR code on a parking sign – and if you’re in a rush you might be caught out

Criminals are employing sneaky tactics to scam unsuspecting drivers by pasting their own QR codes over legitimate ones on parking meters to steal card details.

Drivers unwittingly scan the code provided and think they are paying for their parking online, but in doing so are exposing themselves to serious financial loss.

In a recent instance of the scam, Barking and Dagenham Borough Council identified multiple parking signs and meters that have been covered with sham QR codes that direct users to a counterfeit website.

While the codes in question may appear less than convincing to the knowing eye, previous cases are executed with considerably more guile, blending seamlessly with the signs they are stuck to.

Barking and Dagenham Council said it is working to remove the offending QR codes, and identify the perpetrators of the scam.

However, as fast as councils and local authorities can remove these false codes, scammers can replace them, or target new car parks.

And, as an increasing number of car parks continue to push cashless payments via apps and websites, car park users are becoming more vulnerable to these scams. 

This is especially the case for those who are less tech-savvy and smartphone literate.

Not only does this mean that victims will make payments to scammers, they may well be fined by parking enforcement firms for failing to pay legitimately for parking.

With drivers often in a rush while parking, many are likely to be oblivious they have fallen victim to a scam and face parking fines as a result.

When scanned, the QR code displayed by fraudsters directs drivers to websites that are almost identical to those operated by legitimate parking providers, with only small differences providing clues to their fraudulent nature.

The official Paybyphone website actually has a simpler mobile interface
Link buttons on the false website don't appear to work

Spot the difference: Paybyphone’s legitimate website (left) looks remarkably similar to the one created by scammers

However, even when comparing the two side by side, it is difficult to tell the difference.

To make sure that they avoid these scams, drivers can instead use the Paybyphone app, or search the website online themselves and input the location code on the meter.

If in doubt customers can also use cash and card meters where they are available.

This is Money has contacted Paybyphone for comment.

Have you been hit by a QR code scam? Get in touch: editor@thisismoney.co.uk

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