(WXIN/WTTV) — The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be careful the next time they use a QR code to pay for a public parking space.

According to the BBB, the latest twist on fake parking scams involves crooks leaving a bogus QR code on a meter or voucher machine.  A typical setup would involve the QR code next to a sign that says something like “Pay for parking here.”  

If you scan that code with your phone, it takes you to a website where you pay using your email address and credit card number.  He won’t get any kind of receipt, but you will notice the small charge on your card and assume it was for parking.

It wasn’t.  And a few weeks later, you will notice another charge on your card. Instead of a few dollars, it might be $50 or more.

The QR code was fake and it led you to a copycat website where you handed your credit card information to a criminal.

“I tried to buy a parking voucher using the QR code on the city parking meters,” one victim told the BBB.  “I scanned to pay for parking but received no proof of parking.  I noticed a charge for $1.98 the same day.  Later, I noticed a $49.99 charge on my credit card for three consecutive months.  I tried calling and emailing the company with no luck.  So, now I have to cancel the card.”

To avoid this and other QR code imposter scams, the BBB offers these tips:

  • Pay for parking directly through the meter. Instead of scanning QR codes to pay for parking, use your credit card to pay directly using the machine or meter.
  • Watch out for short links. If a QR code says it will open a URL-shortened link, you can’t know for sure where the code is directing you. It could be hiding a malicious URL or not belonging to the organization you are trying to pay.
  • Look for evidence of tampering. Scammers may try to confuse you by placing QR code stickers where they should belong. They may even place them on top of legitimate QR codes. Keep a close eye out for signs of tampering.
  • Install a QR scanner with added protection. Antivirus companies may offer QR scanner apps that alert you to phishing scams, suspicious links, and forced app downloads before you click on the link. Take advantage of secure scanners to get extra protection. 

The BBB has also has tips on spotting other scams involving fraudulent QR codes and review BBB’s study on government impostor scams.

If you spot a scam, you can report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker