Got a text telling you to pay a parking ticket with your credit card? It's a scam

Islanders are being warned to be alert to scammers in the wake of a new scheme using text messages to demand credit card information to pay for outstanding parking violations.

The text looks official, using a poorly cropped image of the P.E.I. government logo and purporting to be from the Court of Justice. It instructs people to enter their credit card information to pay the ticket.

"There is no actual 'Court of Justice' on Prince Edward Island," said Steven Dowling, director of financial and consumer services for P.E.I.'s justice and public safety department.

Dowling said that while this scam is new, it's just the latest in a long line of creative attempts to fool people.

"It falls in the category of your various online scams that are targeting not only Islanders ... but really it's a global issue."

He said his department started noticing this particular scam a few days ago.

"The fact is, this is a very, very common practice. The scammers are constantly evolving."

He said scammers will sometimes use websites that look like the real thing. Careful scrutiny might turn up differences that indicate it's not legitimate, such as spelling or grammatical errors, general terms of address, like "Dear sir or madam," or proactive requests for money, or personal or financial information.

Dowling said because scams evolve so quickly, it's less important to know the details of this specific scam than it is to have the instincts and tools to recognize scams in general.

"Take the time to really think about it," he said. "Definitely don't get into pressure tactics, never agree to sign a contract, give access to your computer or telephone, or commit to buying something."

The message goes on to ask for credit card details, which Dowling says is a common component of scams.
The message went on to ask for credit card details, a common tactic used by scammers. (Submitted by Keisha Wedge)

One way to check on the legitimacy of an offer is to call the organization that the message purports to be from on a number that you know is legitimate, Dowling said.

And if someone believes they've fallen for one of these sorts of attempts, they should reach out to a law enforcement agency.

"Often, people are embarrassed about it, but don't be," he said. "These folks are very good at what they do."