Parking lot scams
You don't have to travel far to be steered toward a scam. Some common spring-intensive ploys that are as close as a parking lot down the road:
- Tricky tickets. You return to your car to discover it has been ticketed for illegal parking. The ticket looks official enough, with a website promising easy online payment. Don't go there: Some of these websites are just bait to infect your computer with a virus that can steal your personal information. So, if you're ticketed, examine the ticket closely and check the Yellow Pages to contact the correct issuing agency or court.
- You drive up to a stadium, restaurant or other event venue and attendants direct you to a nearby lot. After paying in advance, you collect a claim check for your car, only to return from the festivities and find that your ride is gone.
Reason: The attendant took the money and ran — and the lot's real owner called a towing company. So when parking near any event venue, stick to lots with real signs — not "Park Here" painted on plywood — and with booths and uniformed attendants that indicate legitimacy.
- You return from shopping and find your car won't start. People approach saying they've noticed your problem and offer to look under the hood. What you don't know is that while you were in the store, they disabled your car in an easily correctable way, such as disconnecting an electrical cable.
Long story short: These Good Samaritans quickly get your engine started and out of gratitude or after a not-so-subtle suggestion, you hand over some cash. For a happier ending, call AAA or a handy friend if you're suddenly stranded.
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling. Have a look at our Scam Alert archive for past warnings about the con artists who too often seek to part Americans from their hard-earned money.