Home » The Parking Lot Scam: How Some Jackhole Cost My Girlfriend $300 And Nearly Got Her Car Towed

The Parking Lot Scam: How Some Jackhole Cost My Girlfriend $300 And Nearly Got Her Car Towed

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My girlfriend called me yesterday, and as soon as I answered the phone I could tell something was wrong. The way she greeted me wasn’t the same; the tone, the energy — it was off. “I just got scammed, and I feel so stupid” she told me, her voice a bit shaky. “What’s going on? What happened?” I inquired, ready to spring into action any way I could. Then she told me, and I was pissed. So here I am writing this article to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, dear readers.

I realize this may seem like a “big city” problem, but actually, pay-to-park surface lots are pretty much all over the country (especially during sporting events), often with big A-frame signs out front reading: “$20 ALL DAY” or something like that. There’s usually an attendant who takes your money and gives you a ticket, and then the social contract states that this attendant must guard your vehicle with their life. That’s an unwritten rule that everyone universally agrees on. But someone on Sunday broke this rule in LA, dooming them to — I would think — at least a few years in purgatory.

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“I was meeting a friend at a vintage clothing show in the fashion district in downtown LA,” my girlfriend, whom we’re going to refer to as Elise, told me. “”Normally I park in the building underground garage, but last time I parked there, they stacked the cars and asked me to leave my key. Plus it was $30.”

“So I went to a surface lot instead,” she continued. These types of lots are common in LA, especially downtown during the Auto show or during Lakers games. “There was a sign that said $10 parking. There was an attendant with tickets. I pulled in; he directed me to park in a specific place. He put a ticket on a window. I paid him, then left.” She noted that many other women who were attending the same clothing show had also parked in the same lot.

The clothing show went great. Elise got to see a lot of cool vintage clothing, she bought some things, she met some nice new people who were running the booths, she had lunch with her friend— it was just a pleasant Sunday morning. But then it wasn’t. “About four hours later, I go back to my [Lexus RX350], and it’s on a tow truck.” The parking “attendant” had apparently taken the “proof of payment” ticket off her windscreen, because it was nowhere to be found.

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“I was confused. I’d paid for parking. When I talked to the [tow truck operator] and realized I’d gotten scammed, I felt embarrassed and shocked. I felt that feeling when you get when someone take advantage of you,” she told me. The car was still in the same spot where Elise had left it, but its front wheels had been lifted by the truck. “I had to pay $297 for him to drop my car… to do a ‘field drop,’ even though he literally hadn’t moved my car an inch. He just had the two wheels up.”

“I also felt bad for the women whose cars got towed. I think [the tow truck operator] said he’d towed 10 cars already. I felt lucky that my car wasn’t towed; at least I didn’t have to pay over $500 and then Uber to some impound lot.” Apparently, this type of scam isn’t rare. “[The tow truck operator] said this happens a lot. These guys will put on what look like parking lot attendant vests when they know there are events nearby, and do this,” she said.

I did a bit of googling, and indeed, this is a big problem. Here’s a post on Reddit titled “Fake Parking Attendant/Parking Ticket Scam” describing a similar incident in Chicago:

Damn it, they got me. And I’m normally really good about this shit. Was going with the wife to a Lizzo concert in Chicago, pull off of I-55 onto Madison heading towards the United Center. As we pull closer, about 1.5 miles or so, I notice two similarly dressed individuals in high vis vests, hats, gloves and other official looking decorations, virtually indistinguishable from other parking attendants at first glance. One is standing in the sidewalk while the other is stopping vehicles. He comes up to us and asks:

“Going to the Lizzo concert?”

“Yes.”

“OK, $20 for regular parking and $40 for easy access at the United Center”

Traffic is moving, the guy is motioning other vehicles to move around and otherwise operating in a very calm and conspicuous manner.

I go:

“OK we’ll take the $20 parking”

He places a card way in the front of our dash and tells us to “keep this in your window”

We approach the United Center, guys looks at us funny, we then reach over to hand him the card and as we look at it, it just has the number “20” handwritten on the back of a Chanel card.

Reported it to the police after being on hold for 20 minutes and they don’t care, of course. I knew I wasn’t going to get my money back, but I at least wanted to warn others about this.

FYI If you ever see these scammers and happen catch them in time, feel free to deal with them as you please! They likely have lots of ill-gotten cash on them, they’ll likely not report you for your acts of social rectification and even if they do Chicago PD doesn’t care.

Here’s a screenshot of another Reddit post about an incident in Philadelphia:

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Here’s the Cincinnati Police asking for help identifying such an alleged scammer:

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CBS News had a long article on this in September of 2022, quoting a number of people who had been similarly scammed. Here’s an example:

 

This scheme has been happening for years at other sporting venues too. Karl Rojek fell victim to the scam last year when he went to the United Center for a Blackhawks game.

“He puts the permit in my window. Waves me to the next guy. The next guy parks me over on the side of the street,” said Rojek. “Cops everywhere. That’s why it seems legitimate. I mean you wouldn’t think twice about parking there.”

He got stuck with a $75 parking ticket.

“Came out after the Blackhawks game. I had a parking ticket from the City of Chicago,” said Rojek. “I walked down the line just to see if it was just me or not. Every single car that parked there, had a ticket.”

I’ve reached out to Joe’s Auto Parks, who runs the lot where my girlfriend was scammed. They initially told me they’d help: “If they do give us a call, then we’ll go ahead and assist them as much as we could,” the representative said to me in reference to the women who were scammed. My girlfriend called Joe’s, and they couldn’t possibly have cared less. They basically put all the blame on her, later telling me: “We’re doing the best we can. We’ve never received any reports from that location,” which is almost certainly BS.

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To be sure, it’s a tricky situation, and on some level, I can see why a parking lot would not want to compensate these scam-victims, because the lot would be losing out on money. The scammers are the crooks here. Still, this lot called a tow truck on probably 10 cars; they should have figured something was amiss. That’s what’s so strange about this; it seems like something fishy is going on…

Some kind of sign stating something to the effect of “There Are No Parking Lot Attendants At This Location. Pay Only At Kiosk” might be helpful, and at the same time, my girlfriend and those other women who attended the vintage clothing show are just going to have to be more careful moving forward. It’s not easy, because it’s hard to distinguish a legit parking lot attendant from a fake one. Maybe the move is to never pay cash, but that doesn’t work all the time.

So be careful out there. The last thing I want is for your prized 1991 Chrysler LeBaron to get scraped up by a tow truck, hauled to an impound lot, and released only after you pay over $500. I’d rather you spend that money on the engine rebuild you’ll need eventually. Consider yourselves warned.

Topshot image credit: via stock.adobe.com: Guy = Saksit. Street scene = Tada Images

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Space
Space
15 days ago

$250 for a flat drop non tow, what a ripoff. I paid $100 for a flatbed tow for my project car across town.
Shouldn’t California have some regulations on this?

Nathan Joly
Nathan Joly
17 days ago

One guy did this and ended up losing his life cuz the guy he scammed went back to confront him.
Stupid people do stupid stuff.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
18 days ago

“I was confused. I’d paid for parking. When I talked to the [tow truck operator] and realized I’d gotten scammed, I felt embarrassed and shocked.”

You know, the tow truck driver MIGHT also be part of the scam.

Just saying…

Andrew Bugenis
Andrew Bugenis
18 days ago

I followed an account on YouTube that showed people getting towed from their private lot – a ton of signs saying “NO PUBLIC PARKING” and people doing it anyways. A couple videos featured this kind of scam, someone in a high-vis on a concert night taking money and directing people to spots (clearly marked with NO PUBLIC PARKING).

The office that guy worked at moved during COVID and he hasn’t been able to keep making them, I kinda miss it.

Dogapult
Dogapult
18 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Bugenis

*drumbeats*

Andrew Bugenis
Andrew Bugenis
17 days ago
Reply to  Dogapult

YEAH BUDDY

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
18 days ago

Hey DT, sorry for all this bullshit.
I know this douchebag.

He disappeared with all the profits from my bit coin investment.

If you locate his sorry ass, I will give you half of whatever cash he has left, after I beat the crap out of his weasel ass.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
18 days ago

Re: “Don’t Trust This Dude”

Have you ever seen a face more punchable?

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
18 days ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Yes. I find Donald Trump’s face to be more punchable.

El Barto
El Barto
18 days ago

This crap happens in Auckland, New Zealand as well – usually at big concerts and sporting events. Scumbags need all the shit kicked out of them.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
18 days ago

I’ve never experienced this here in Europe, but I basically trust nothing but an automated ticket system.

People usually suck.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
18 days ago

In the fall of 2003 (I’m old) my buddy and I headed up to Seattle for a concert. Got waved into a big lot with very professional “concert parking” signs prominently posted. We were one of the first ones in. We sat in the car drinking beer, and then went into the show. Came out about 3:00 a.m. to find multiple tow trucks hooking up and more waiting. We managed to run to the back of the lot where my car was, and get out. But we did notice that all the signage that was up was gone; they were covering ‘private lot violators will be towed’ signs. The guy had probably parked 2 to 300 cars in that lot. At 20 bucks a pop. Made himself a quick 4-6K and powdered out. That night was epic for a whole bunch of reasons but we’ve always been much more careful about parking since.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
18 days ago
Reply to  Phil Layshio

Don’t rule out the possibility of the tow truck operators being in on the scam…

Last edited 18 days ago by Manwich Sandwich
Boosted
Boosted
18 days ago

We’ve parked at some places in DTLA that didn’t seem right. Seemed like someone found an unused lot, set up shop and took off when it was full. We didn’t get towed or tickets.

These days I park in structures with a booth or open lot with some sort of physical booth.

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