• How to Spot a Fake Parking Ticket & What to do Next

    How to Spot a Fake Parking Ticket & What to do Next

    Getting a parking ticket is never on anyone’s to do list, but sometimes these things happen. You might have parked incorrectly or overstayed after using a pay and display car park. However, if you’ve received a parking ticket and don’t believe you’ve broken any rules, or in fact haven’t used any parking spaces, it’s natural to question how real the parking ticket is.

    Sadly, there are such things as fake parking tickets. That’s why we’ve created this guide so you can learn how to spot a fake parking ticket, understand how to avoid getting a fake parking ticket, and understand what you should do if you suspect you’ve received a fake parking ticket.

    What is a real parking ticket, and why might I get one?

    There are two types of parking tickets you can receive. The first one is from a local council and the second is from a private parking management company. They are similarly named:

    1. A council issued parking ticket is called a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN)
    2. A privately issued parking ticket is called a Parking Charge Notice (PCN)

    As you can see they are similarly named. This is thought to have been purposefully done by private parking companies because private parking tickets aren’t legally enforceable. 

    However, both types of PCN, whether issued by the council or a private parking management company are real tickets.

    You might receive a parking ticket or PCN for:

    1. Not paying for your parking
    2. Breaking rules set out on signage in car parks
    3. Parking over more than one space
    4. Overstaying in a space

    And many other reasons too! We’ve got full guides on council parking fines and private parking fines that you can check out.

    Either way, a genuine PCN will only ever be issued to you in these ways:

    1. Handed directly to you.
    2. Left on the windshield of your vehicle.
    3. Through the post.

    You will NOT be sent a genuine parking ticket via email, as the issuer has no legal way of getting that information.

    Free Parking Ticket Appeal Letter Download

    Spotting a fake parking ticket

    Now that we’ve covered the real parking tickets, let’s look into how you can spot a fake parking ticket. Unfortunately, such things do exist, and many people have fallen into a trap of paying for a parking ticket to avoid any further consequences. There are a handful of different ways you might become a victim of a fake parking ticket scam.

    Spam emails

    The Mirror outlined a fake penalty charge email scam that was going around back in 2020. Essentially, a group of scammers were posing as the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to try and get innocent people to give over their bank details. These emails were quite convincing at a quick glance, and lots of people were scammed because of it.

    Source: The Mirror

    It’s not the greatest of photos, but motorists all over the UK were receiving emails that look fairly genuine when you first open it. And, with the threat of HMCTS chasing them, a lot of them paid up. 

    The article The Mirror wrote about it states that “The email also threatens an increased fare if you don’t pay, and even a county court claim.”

    However, there are ways to check the legitimacy of it:

    1. Firstly, you’ll never receive a parking ticket via email, and especially not from HMCTS.
    2. The sender’s address doesn’t end with @justice.co.uk – any official email send from HMCTS will all end in @justice.co.uk.
    3. There are spelling mistakes in the email. In the example above, the word “penalty” is spelled as “penality”.

    If you find yourself in a situation like this, do not follow any links within the email. Your next steps should be to:

    1. Forward the email to report@phishing.gov.uk.
    2. Report it to Action Fraud.
    3. Forward the email to The National Cyber Security Centre.

    If you have accidentally clicked on any of the links within the email, get in touch with your bank to make them aware that you might have given your bank details to scammers. They will be able to place your account on high alert and decline transactions while they take action to make your account safe again.

    Fake parking fines on your vehicle

    It’s not very funny, but some people buy fake parking tickets online to prank their friends. In fact, when you search “fake parking tickets”, most of the results are websites selling them for people to use a practical jokes. However, sometimes, this can be left on the wrong car, meaning a total stranger now thinks they owe money for a parking ticket.

    The problem with these tickets is that they do look like the real deal. However, they won’t have any real contact details on them. If this is the case, get in touch with the local council or the owner of the private car park instead to see if the ticket is real. If they deny it, you’ve probably just been the victim of a bad joke.

    Fake parking fines in the post

    While real parking fines can be sent through the post, it doesn’t mean that the one you’ve received is real. If you’re unsure, you’re better off checking the parking ticket is legitimate. For example, if you know you haven’t used any private or council owned parking lately and it seems odd that you’ve received a ticket, you should check the legitimacy of the ticket before taking action.

    This might mean contacting your local council to see if you have a parking ticket against your name, or it might mean contacting the private parking company on their official website or phone number to check the ticket. Either way, withhold payment until you know the ticket is yours and that you actually committed the alleged contravention.

    Fake parking fines from other people

    This option is less likely, but it’s not unheard of either. While it might not be someone trying to scam you, it could be another motorist that’s placed their ticket onto your windshield.

    Make sure you check all of the details on the parking ticket before taking action. This might mean checking the time and date, or even the vehicle registration on the ticket itself. You might find that someone has wrongfully put their ticket onto your vehicle in an attempt to avoid paying!

    What to do if you’ve received a fake parking ticket

    Much like when you’ve received a scam parking ticket email, there are actions you can take:

    1. Get in touch with Action Fraud and explain your situation.
    2. Speak with the non-emergency number for the police force in your area – there may be other reports of this happening!
    3. Do not take action if you suspect your parking ticket is fake. Take the time to find out if it’s legitimate first!

    How can I avoid falling for a fake parking ticket?

    It’s quite a scary concept really, that a group of people can prey on innocent motorists to gain their bank information. However, by being more aware of what’s out there, you can avoid falling for a fake parking ticket. If you suspect you might be a victim to a fake parking ticket scam, make sure you:

    1. Speak to someone official about the parking ticket. Don’t use the information on the parking ticket if you suspect it’s fake; contact the issuing authority by looking their details up either through the gov.uk website or visiting the private operator’s official website.
    2. Check the information on the ticket. Make sure that it’s your registration number and that the other information is valid, such as time and date of the ticket being issued.

    Things to know about real parking tickets

    Sadly, the parking ticket business is a lucrative one. That’s why it’s no wonder that scammers want a piece of the action. So, let’s recap some of the things you should remember:

    1. You’ll never receive a parking ticket via email.
    2. Real parking tickets will have correct spelling and grammar.
    3. If you’re unsure, go the extra length to find official contact details for the alleged issuer. If it is real, they’ll be able to confirm this and match details on the parking ticket itself.
    4. Report any fake parking tickets to Action Fraud and the local council to make them aware.
    5. Real parking tickets give you time to decide what you’re going to do (up to 21 days in some cases). If you’re being pressured to immediately pay up, your ticket might be a scam.

    Hundreds of thousands of people get real parking tickets every month, so don’t also assume that your parking ticket is fake either. Instead of ignoring a parking ticket, whether it’s fake or not, take the time to investigate into it so that you’ve got that peace of mind! 

    If it turns out to be fake, you don’t have to worry. But, if it turns out to be a real parking ticket, at least you’re not inadvertently ignoring it, which could lead to further charges in the long run!

    Free Parking Ticket Appeal Letter Download

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