There are three different scams going on in SF using parking as their base of operation.
The first one is one that most people are aware of. When parking in a lot such as the ones along the Embarcadero, there are often imposters posing as parking attendants. They will take your $8, be extremely polite, and wish you a good evening. Upon returning, you find that you have received a citation for non-payment. An easy way to avoid this is to read all of the signs usually posted at the entrance to the lot or at the kiosk. One even has a sign with a photograph that says, “Do not give money to this man!”
The second parking scam is much more elaborate. There is a group of scoundrels creating fake parking tickets that look quite believable. They are putting them on cars (often ones that have committed a violation such as an expired meter). They’re hoping that the vehicle owner will see the ticket, grumble, and send the money via a bogus website or phone number printed on the ticket and/or simultaneously give away personal information and download spyware that will allow them to fish for information.
How can you avoid being a victim to this scam? Easy. The only website where you can pay your citation to the city of San Francisco is at www.SFMTA.com or www.services.sfgov.org. The official mail-in address for SF parking citations is PO Box 7718 San Francisco 94120-7718, and the official pay by phone numbers are 415-701-3099 or 800-531-7357. Any other address, website, or phone number is bogus.
The third parking scam is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s been around for quite some time, but perhaps long enough so as to become new again. It’s that good. While I don’t condone it, I do chuckle at the cleverness and simplicity of it. Here’s how it goes. Person A comes back from the shop and sees a parking ticket on the windshield of their white HondaLexus. They say, “$65 dollars?! I’m not paying that.” So, they drive around for a few blocks, until they see another white Lexus that looks just like their car, and....yup…you guessed it…they put their ticket on another person’s car. Then they just wait a few weeks to see if you’ve paid it for them.
How to avoid this one? Easy. Do you know your license plate number? I’ll bet you a quarter you don’t. Most people don’t, so don’t feel bad. But still, a bet is a bet, so send your quarter to me via 7x7 magazine. Take a second right now and put your license plate number into your smart phone. You’ll need it at the DMV, a hotel, or some other place, but the best reason to know it is to make sure that you haven’t paid somebody else’s parking ticket. Think back at all of the tickets that you’ve paid….did you check the license plate number?