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How to Stop Scammers from Skimming Parking Payments with Fake QR Codes

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Scammers out for the next quick fix have found their next target: parking meters and kiosks.

The scam is simple: they stick a fake QR code on your parking kiosks that purport to be for mobile payments. Unsuspecting customers think that the stickers are legitimate, and scan to pay for their parking. Except that these payments are stolen, as the QR codes point to fake sites that aren’t affiliated with any parking operation or authority.

The problem is big enough where certain cities in Texas are running public information campaigns to raise awareness. And, while we haven’t seen anything impacting our parking operations, we’re being proactive, with a multi-pronged strategy to protect customers from this malicious scam. Here’s what we’re doing at Premium Parking.

Promote TextPay

Touchless transactions have taken the front seat when it comes to payments since the pandemic. So it’s no wonder that QR codes are being deployed by scammers: they are a familiar and common way to engage in commerce.

So, first and foremost, while our CameraPay option is one of our fastest growing payment channels, we’re also continuing to promote alongside our best-in-class TextPay system, which is a far more secure way to interact with our customers. This critical stopgap prevents QR code fraud, and with Google Pay and Apple Pay integration, puts secure payments at the heart of the seamless parking experience.

To promote TextPay, we post signage prominently around the property. That added visibility prevent potential confusion and outlines a clearly sanctioned and “official” way to pay. With sufficient signage, it becomes much harder for a few QR codes to derail well-meaning customers. Signage can also include links to the parking provider website, which gives customers another way to pay through legitimate channels.

Monitor transactions via business intelligence

The value of business intelligence is its ability to predict future revenues. That also makes BI tools a handy detective to sleuth out potential scammers. Since these scams siphon revenue from sanctioned channels, an active scam impacts revenue.

By monitoring business intelligence tools, we’re able to pinpoint anything suspicious and flag for further review. Any unexpected revenue dips — such as those not caused by weather or other local conditions — are immediately investigated.

We’re also able to monitor for any rise in customer complaints, unpaid parking or other trends that don’t align with typical business behavior. Those types of alerts can guide our field teams to investigate further.

Perform regular in-field QR code audits

The final tactic is to perform regular in-field audits. These frequent reviews allow rapid identification of any fake QR codes before they have the chance to fool customers. As part of regular operational procedure around site inspections, these audits help to maintain a consistent parking experience for customers across the portfolio.

Our field audits can also be conducted randomly, without any preset intervals, so that we’re more likely to catch scammers before they have the chance to strike. By avoiding patterns that are easily discernible, we maintain the upper hand.

Another way to avoid QR code fraud is to use brand decals, logos and/or watermarks on signage. That’s an easy way to give field teams an additional way to spot any fraudulent codes — simply remove anything that isn’t branded with a watermark or other official brand mark.

It’s about people, places and platform

It all comes down to people, places and platform. By finding ways to promote customer convenience while maintaining robust security, we're constantly working together to deliver a seamless parking experience that’s easy, fast, and safe. We want to equip our teams with the technology they need to excel at their work, while also building our facilities to be best-in-class. Pair that with a platform that reliably serves our customers and we’ve got the recipe for success – scammers beware.

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