QR code scammers hitting on-street parking in Texas cities -- including Houston, officials say; This is what you need to know

Here's what we know:

HOUSTON – Houston is warning the public about a scam they’ve learned about in Texas cities and may be affecting people using on-street parking stations in Houston.

Officials said Wednesday that fraudulent QR codes are being affixed to on-street parking pay stations. These fraudulent QR codes link to a non-city-affiliated website or a fake vendor. In the past three weeks, Houston officials say parking enforcement officers in both San Antonio and Austin discovered fraudulent QR codes affixed to on-street parking pay stations.

And now, ParkHouston told KPRC 2 they’re seeing it in our own back yard. There were five locations where workers found codes Wednesday morning. Most are east of downtown and one in downtown.

The locations are here:

900 McKinney, north side of the block

1000 McKinney, north side of the block

1300 Polk, south side of the block

600 Polk, north side of the street

Here is what the fake code on the parking pay meter looks like:

Fake QR code on the parking pay meter, as collected in Houston on Jan. 5, 2022. (Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Here’s a screenshot of what the fake website looks like once you click on the code:

A screenshot of what the fake website looks like once you click on the code, as collected on Jan. 5, 2022, in Houston. (Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

A QR code (quick response code) is a two-dimensional barcode that when scanned by a mobile device can almost instantly link the user to a wide variety of information.

While fraudulent codes have not yet been seen in Houston, ParkHouston said residents need to be aware and educate themselves on proper payment methods.

The City of Houston DOES NOT use QR codes on any on-street parking pay stations, nor does the City accept payments through QR codes.

ParkHouston graphic about QR code scam officials said they've seen in Texas cities. (ParkHouston)

The City of Houston accepts four means of payment for parking: coins, bills or credit card at a ParkHouston pay station, or by using the ParkHouston app.

ParkHouston urges residents to be aware and educate friends and colleagues on proper payment methods. ParkHouston said its team is continuing to inspect the city’s more than 900 pay stations to ensure there are no QR codes affixed.

Anyone who sees someone tampering with a pay station and is not a badged City of Houston employee should call 911. If you see a QR code of any kind on a pay station, please report it to parking@houstontx.gov or call 311.


About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.