Honest drivers have cars towed after scammers strike downtown parking lots

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The owners of a downtown parking lot are warning their customers and speaking to Fox59News in hopes of fighting back against scammers who are using their lot to steal money from drivers.

Yancey Kay, with Elite Management Services, runs an honor box parking lot at the corner of Maryland and Pennsylvania in downtown Indianapolis. In recent weeks, scammers have been profiting off the lot, pretending to be parking attendants, collecting money and then taking off with the cash.

“We’ve caught people in the process (of the scam),” Kay said. “We’ve called IMPD. They’ve done everything that they can to investigate. Obviously, our staff is not security guards. They’re not going to chase these guys in the alley when they run off.”

Kay said the men often strike quickly, but they look legitimate and have even given bogus tickets to drivers. Since the money doesn’t actually go into the pay box, those who leave their cars often get towed before they return.

“Come out and see my car is gone, and you know my stomach fell,” said James Cox, who fell victim to the scam during a recent event downtown. “And then I’m like okay, I’ve got to figure out what happened to my car.”

The company that has towed the cars from the lot, tells Fox59 News that they have allowed victims to get their cars back without charge if they filed a police report.

After several similar reports at the same lot, officers are keeping tabs on the area during events. Victims haven’t been able to provide good descriptions of the scammers, but they said the men have been wearing shirts and vests that say parking.

“They’re not amateurs,” Kay said. “They’ve figured out a system.”

Though police are searching for the scammers, they said the crime could happen anywhere.

To better protect yourself you should:

  • Park in familiar lots
  • Read and follow posted parking signs
  • If there is an attendant booth make sure those collecting money have access
  • Get a receipt and read it closely

“If it said South and Meridian and you’re on Maryland and Penn, you know there’s something fishy,” said Steve Foster, parking superintendent for Norle.

Foster, who runs the parking lot at South and Meridian, found out that one of his tickets was used in this scam. He told Fox59 that the serial number on the ticket is from February and that the scammers likely found it on the ground.

“Somebody could come in easily in the early morning hours and find a ticket or two on the ground,” Foster said. “It damages the whole concept of parking downtown and that hurts all the legitimate operators.”

“It works out badly for everybody,” Kay said. “The tow company doesn’t want to tow people that shouldn’t have been towed, we don’t want to tow somebody that should have legitimately paid for parking and then obviously the person whose car gets towed is the worst affected of all because at the very least, it’s an hour delay in trying to go home.”

Kay said they don’t have the resources to staff their lot 24/7, but he does plan to upgrade the surveillance cameras at his lot in hopes of catching anyone trying to run the scam again.