LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — If you find a parking ticket on your windshield that shouldn’t be there it might be a scam.

According to the Acadiana Better Business Bureau, scammers are using new technology to create fake parking tickets that look surprisingly official. It could be a scam if you receive a parking ticket and are confident that you parked legally. 

Here’s how it works: You park in a legal parking zone or pay to park on the street or in a garage. While you are away from your car, scammers use high-tech, hand-held printers to make a fake ticket and leave it on your car’s windshield.

This phony citation usually asks you to pay online or via PayPal. One recent case used a QR code to direct victims to a fake payment website. If you follow the instructions, you’ll end up paying a fine you don’t owe. Also, your personal information will now be in the hands of scammers.

“I paid $15 to park in a garage and received a receipt for it, which I displayed on my dashboard,” one driver reported tro the BBB. “However, I then received a violation notice for $56 for the parking receipt not being visible on the dashboard.”

In other versions of this scam, you receive an email claiming you have a pending parking ticket. Scammers typically include official-looking logos and argue there will be dire consequences if you don’t pay. If you click on links in the email, you can download malware onto your computer.

Here are some tips for how to avoid parking ticket scams:

  • Know before you park. Before visiting a new place, research available parking and local parking requirements. Tourists with out-of-state plates are often the preferred target for parking scams because they need to familiarize themselves with local parking laws. 
  • Examine the citation carefully. Scammers can imitate logos and city office names, but an imitation website is usually where the scam comes to light. Do an internet search for the city’s official parking ticket websites and compare what you find to what’s on the ticket. Keep in mind that government sites should end in a .gov or .ca (in Canada) designation, and if there is a payment page, it should always have a secure connection.
  • Double-check the name checks should be made out to. If the ticket allows for payment by check, take a closer look at the address the check should be sent and how it should be addressed. Checks should generally be made to a specific government organization, not a string of initials or personal names.
  • Pay traffic citations by credit card when possible. It will be easier to contest fraudulent charges if you discover you’ve been scammed down the road.