Drivers are being warned over a scam involving fake parking fine tickets that has been doing the rounds in Toulouse in south-west France.
The fraudulent tickets are left tucked under the vehicle’s windscreen wipers and claim a €35 fine has been given to the driver – which will rise to €135 if not paid within two days.
The ticket asks people to pay the fine by scanning a QR code on the document, which brings them to a website where they can pay online.
This website is modelled on the official government website for paying fines, and is an “almost perfect replica” according to La Depeche, meaning many people are tricked into paying for the fine, concerned that it supposedly will quadruple.
Police have confirmed the scam and urged drivers in Toulouse to be on the lookout.
Elsewhere in France, there have been reports of a similar scam that sees people receiving a text asking them to pay a parking fine, which links them to the same fraudulent website.
Resemblance to official tickets ‘is disturbing’
These fake tickets have been appearing on the windshields of dozens of cars in Toulouse, regardless of where they are being parked.
“On Thursday evening, I parked my car in the Saint-Aubin district. When I got back, four hours later, I noticed a small piece of paper under my windscreen wipers, said Romain, one of the drivers the fraudsters targeted.
The slip of paper informs drivers they had received a €35 fine for parking and that if it is not paid within two days it will jump to €135.
“The ticket also had the French flag and motto on it… it’s disturbing [how close it looks to a real ticket],” added the driver.
This is referring to the logo found on official documents from the government, the Marianne symbol, and the motto Liberté, Égalite, Fraternité.
It then asked people to scan a QR code at the bottom of the ticket, to take them to a website to pay the fine (in France, fines for minor offences such as parking tickets can be paid online).
The website resembles the official antai.gouv.fr site and has a section for people to pay their fine by adding their bank details.
Romain noticed the unusual name of the website – antai-gouv-contrav.com (which does not include the official gouv.fr ending) – and pieced together that it was a scam.
"I found the system bizarre, especially as everything is now paperless,” he said.
“I called the municipal police to find out if I'd really received a ticket. According to the officer, it was all a scam. If you pay, the money goes into someone else’s bank account,” he added.
Ticket could be a step in a two-part scam
A collection of €35 might not seem like a big catch for fraudsters but the trick follows a similar pattern of recent scams that use a two-pronged method to gain unlimited access to people’s bank accounts.
Scammers will offer a too-good-to-be-true deal (or use a fake ticket such as above) to get people’s card details through an online payment, and then a few weeks later call the person pretending to be from their bank.
As fraudsters have all of a person’s bank account details (gained from the original transaction), and because they claim there is an urgent problem they need to resolve immediately, people can be tricked into handing over sensitive information such as account passwords over the phone.
Once fraudsters have access to your account, they can transfer the money out of it, or lock you out of the account – a recent example of this two-pronged method was a fake SNCF card scam.