Scammers target holiday shoppers in parking lots

WASHINGTON – A series of parking lot scams have been reported to Maryland’s
consumer protection unit in the last few weeks. Four of them are concerning to
scam trend-trackers who want to get the word out.

“During the holiday season, the scams ratchet up tremendously,” says Maryland
Attorney General Doug Gansler. He was at the opening of the state’s new consumer
protection office in Prince George’s County, where residents can report and learn
about scams.

Karen Straughn, who heads the new consumer protection office, says the first
could be potentially dangerous.

“You come out to your car and you notice there’s a $100 bill under your
windshield wiper. And people go to get out of their car to get the $100 bill and
get carjacked,” Straughn says.

Beyond losing their car, Straughn says if there are kids in the car, it could
escalate the severity of the situation.

Another dangerous scam was reported in the Baltimore County area recently,
Straughn says. It involved a suspect yelling for help in a mall parking lot, then
attempting to grab the potential victim. Police were called.

Two of the scams they’ve seen involve suspects approaching potential victims
about fixing small dings or dents on their vehicle, Straughn says.

They either appear to fix it and the paint starts to peel the next day
or they fix the dings and demand more money, she says.

“Don’t just accept business or items from people who approach you in a parking
lot who want to sell you something. They may not have proper license to do what
they’re doing. They may not be properly certified. You should check out a
business before you decide to pay them money,” Straughn says.

She suggests if you witness a scam to be vocal about it and alert local
authorities.

“Having this office here and available to help people navigate getting some of
their money back, or all of their money back, is going to be a great thing for
the people of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties,” Gansler says.

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