The city of San Diego is warning drivers of an email scheme that uses parking violation notices to access personal computers, robbing them of a lot more than the $40 it says they owe.
The sophisticated phishing attack is just now hitting the area. The scammers send emails that appear to be from the city, warning victims they have an outstanding parking ticket. They are told to pay $40 and click on a link.
By pressing the suggested link, you could infect your computer with malware, possibly exposing sensitive identity information, according to city spokesman Bill Harris.
“It was using the city's good name to get people to do inappropriate things. We're angry about it,” said Harris.
San Diego’s traffic department is warning visitors to its website about this scheme. In the last 48 hours, the city has been inundated with complaint calls from all over the country.
Victim Dennis Bond got hooked in a similar PayPal phishing scheme a few years back. A bogus email warned his account would be closed if he didn't respond. Two hours after doing what was requested, $1,800 disappeared from his bank account.
“It was horrible at the time. I don't know but at the time, I had $20,000 in the account. They could have taken the whole thing,” Bond said.
So when he got an email notice saying he had an outstanding parking ticket in Philadelphia, a place he had never been, Dennis didn't bite.
“I don't trust anything I don't know,” Bond said.
Harris told NBC 7 the city’s parking administration does not contact you by email, so if you get a notice about a delinquent parking ticket from the city of San Diego or elsewhere, don't open it nor click the suggested link.
Instead, log on to SanDiego.gov, the only legitimate website to determine whether you have a traffic violation in the area.
San Diego is just the latest city used in this phishing scheme. It has previously appeared in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles.
The emails offer no clues as to where they are coming from or any connection between those who have received them.