Beware the parking ticket email scam

Parking WestminsterAnthony Devlin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

One council has issued a warning about a new email scam on the go, which tells drivers that they have paid for a parking ticket, and that a list of their recent transactions is attached in a separate document. If they open the attachment, their computer is infected with a virus.

So how can you spot this fraud, and what can you do?
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The scam

Westminster Council has posted a warning on is website saying: "Please be advised we are aware of a spam email that appears to have been issued by Pay by Phone with a parking receipt for a parking session for a one hour on 5th November 2011 in Westminster for £33.30."

The email claims to come from the company PaybyPhone - which runs cashless meters in the borough, and involves people calling, entering their details into the system over the phone, and paying by credit card.

The emails aren't specifically targeting people who have parked in Westminster - and most of the people who get the email are unlikely even to have a PaybyPhone account. The criminals are simply working on the basis that if they hit enough people, some of them will panic that their account is being used by someone else, and they'll open the attachment

What can you do?

A spokesman for Keepsafeonthenet.co.uk says you should avoid opening the email or the attachment. He had the email himself, and says: "This email came with an attachment. My anti-virus program removed it because it was infected with malware. Do not open the attachment. You haven't parked in "St Alderney" (wherever that is) and neither have I. If you accidentally open the attachment and think you might have infected your computer, download and scan it" with anti virus software.

PaybyPhone is investigating the scam, and in the interim, the council's advice is: "to delete the email and run your anti-virus software. We have not taken a payment. However if you have concerns please contact your bank or card provider."

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Beware the parking ticket email scam

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The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme

It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.

Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.

Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.

The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.

The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.

A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense

Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.

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They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.

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The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.

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