Watch CBS News

California teen made fake parking tickets in scam to collect payments, police say

Viral videos expose gift card scams
Viral videos expose gift card scams ahead of holiday shopping 04:00

Police in Santa Cruz, California, arrested a 19-year-old they say made fake parking tickets and put them on parked cars near the beach. The fake tickets had a QR code that victims could scan to "pay" the fraudulent citations.

The man put the false citations — which directed potential victims to a website to pay a fine — on cars late Wednesday night, said Santa Cruz police. 

Damian Vela, of Watsonville, California, was charged with unlawful use of a computer system and attempted fraud, police said. According to a news release from the department, when police spoke with Vela on Thursday, he denied receiving any payments.

Investigators do not know how many fake tickets the man put on cars or how many victims may have paid the bogus fines.

It's just the latest report of a scam related to fake parking tickets. In recent years, police departments around the country — including Washington, D.C.Pensacola, Florida and Jefferson City, Missouri, among others —  have warned drivers to be wary of scams involving parking tickets. Scams can involve email or text messages as well as the kind of fake tickets on cars that drivers in Santa Cruz found.

Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and author of "How to be the World's Smartest Traveler," told CBS MoneyWatch in 2017 that technology like handheld printers made parking scams easier and drivers should be vigilant.

"There is a certain arbitrariness about parking tickets, and scammers take advantage of that," said Elliott. "You get a ticket on your windshield, and you're likely to just pay it."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.