‘Tis the Season...for Parking Scams

‘Tis the Season...for Parking Scams


Dear Parking Guru,

I drove into the City to do some shopping and parked at an Embarcadero Garage. As I parked, a very nice attendant approached me and said that it was a $20 flat rate. I paid him $20 and went on my way. Upon returning I found a parking violation on my windshield.

I googled "parking scams" and found a world of information on your website and in your book, Finding the Sweet Spot. Is there anything I can do to avoid paying this $70 ticket?


Ms. Gullible


Dear Ms. Gullible,

“Tis the season for this scam to rear its head.  Many people come into the City to have a festive day and do a little holiday shopping.  For some, simply driving into the city and finding parking is an ordeal in and of itself.  Not being familiar with the particular rules of this particular garage, I can see how easy it was for you to hand over $20.  Many garages do operate this way, so why would you have thought otherwise?

On the backside of your citation is an address to pay for, or contest your citation.  Send in a copy of the citation and explain what happened, and give a description of the person if you remember.  In your letter, if you offer to pay what the actual amount for your stay would have been, I believe that they will be reasonable and work something out with you, and thank you for bringing the problem to their attention. 

The way to avoid a scam like this is to read all of the signage when you enter.  The rules and procedures should be clearly stated upon entry.  Every garage and lot is different.  Some are pay and display, some are valet, and some are completely automated. 

On the bright side, be glad that this impostor wasn’t impersonating a valet attendant offering to take your keys and park your car for you.  And, even more brightly (check with your CPA to be sure), but I believe that you can deduct the $20 as a “charitable contribution”.

While we’re on the topic, be sure to watch out for this scam as well:  You park on the street, have a nice lunch, return back to your vehicle, you were cutting it close with the meter…damn…$72 meter violation citation waving in the wind under your wiper blade.  You don’t want to acknowledge it and feel bad about blowing so much money.  But, when you get home you write the check and send it in to avoid the penalties for paying late. 

Where’s the scam?  Anyone, anyone?  Bueller?  The scam is that you just paid somebody else’s parking ticket.  It’s an oldie but a goodie.  People take their valid parking ticket and look for a similarly colored, or make and model of car, and put their ticket on your windshield.  The hope is that you don’t know your license plate number, and will simply pay it without verifying.

Ah, the games people play.  If nothing else, it keeps things interesting. 

By the way, Embarcadero Center is offering free parking for up to four hours during the holiday season.

2013 Free Holiday Parking | Embarcadero Center

Valid Dates: Friday, November 22, 2013 through Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Valid Times:

Monday through Friday | 5 pm-11:59 pm

Saturday and Sunday | 10 am to 11:59 pm (Sticker must be affixed to parking ticket to be valid.)


David LaBua is a leader in the sustainable urban mobility movement, author of Finding the Sweet Spot, and founder of VoicePark, the world’s first voice-guided mobile app that guides drivers to the closest available parking spot in real-time. You can follow him on twitter@ParkingGuru.


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