RingGo scam foiled but drivers warned of rise in cashless parking fraud
Drivers reported being duped by a spoof RingGo site after Googling the app which forced them to pay a ‘registration fee’ before money was stolen from their bank accounts.
According to Trading Standards, this is an emerging trend as criminals look to exploit the move by local councils and authorities from coin-operated machines towards cashless parking solutions.
In one case shared with YourMoney.com, Robert parked his car in Barnsley and was directed to pay using the RingGo app.
He Googled ‘RingGo’ and clicked on the top result where he was asked to enter his car registration and card details.
But after the ‘RingGo’ icon disappeared from his screen, he realised he’d been directed to a spoof site and after checking his banking app, he could see an initial £1 had been taken before a further £60 left his account.
He then downloaded the legitimate app again and his £3 parking payment went through as normal. Luckily his bank, Virgin Money, refunded the fraudulent transaction.
According to Alison Stammers, independent Chislehurst Matters councillor for the Chislehurst ward in the London Borough of Bromley, several residents have also been duped in this way.
“A tech savvy woman who is not easily conned was in a car park and couldn’t pay by cash. A parking attendant was lurking and so to do it quickly, she Googled RingGo rather than downloading it from the app store. She shared her card details and then £1 was taken but the payment didn’t go through. She tried with another card and another person did it too so they were both scammed,” she said.
Both scam victims called their banks straight away to stop the cards. However, this then presented them with another problem. As their cards were blocked and they couldn’t pay by cash as only app/cashless parking was available, they then had no means to pay to park.
The other issue is that drivers falling foul of this scam mistakenly believe they’ve paid to park their car. But as well as being scammed, they could also risk a parking ‘fine’ as the payment hasn’t actually gone through to the legitimate firm operating the car park.
Below are the screen shots showing the spoof RingGo site, the fraudulent app download link and the money taken from Robert’s bank account:
According to Katherine Hart, Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) lead officer, the whole point is to get people to click on false links to get their data. But as part of the two-fold nature of this scam, victims have a small amount taken from their account before they get a call purporting to be from their bank account regarding ‘fraud’ where they’re asked to transfer all their cash to another ‘safe’ account.
“The advice is not to click on links and if you are called by your ‘bank’, hang up and dial 159 where the major banks have signed up to the scheme so you are put through to the right bank,” she said.
In September 2021, Stop Scams UK launched 159 – a memorable short-code phone service that securely connects customers to their banks when they’ve received a suspicious call. See the Stop Scams 159 page for more information on the participating banks.
Hart added: “What criminals have done is get a brand that consumers will recognise [RingGo] and use that as a hook as drivers need to pay for car parking. This is an emerging trend affecting car parking in general, not just RingGo.”
She added that QR codes displayed in car parks offering drivers an alternative way to pay are also being compromised, with criminals sticking fraudulent codes over the legitimate ones in an attempt to scam unsuspecting drivers.
“Make sure you download legitimate apps, be careful of links and sites during searches. Check reviews and keep an eye on the situation. Check whether the right amount has been charged by looking at the fees displayed. And if you are scammed, report it to Action Fraud.”
Arun Chauhan, trustee at counter-fraud charity Fraud Advisory Panel, said: “We are aware of the threat posed by the impersonation of websites and mobile apps. We encourage people to be vigilant about when they share their data, to verify if they are dealing with legitimate applications or third parties and to keep records of when they do share personal information.”
RingGo spoof site taken down with YourMoney.com’s help
After first being made aware of the RingGo scam on 17 April, we made several unsuccessful attempts to contact RingGo via a range of channels.
It took a LinkedIn message to the managing director, Peter O’Driscoll, to get the company’s attention and confirmation that it was looking into this as a matter of urgency on 26 April.
A spokesperson said: “Fraudulent RingGo websites have been appearing online designed to steal financial information from victims. The sites are engineered to look like the RingGo page but are scams designed to steal personal details.
“RingGo is working with search engine companies to shut these sites down as quickly as possible. We’d like to remind customers to download the app via official app stores, through Apple or Google Play, or access the authentic page at www.ringgo.co.uk.
“Any suspicious signs, including in the website address or website design should be seen as red flags. If you are affected by this scam, please contact the RingGo customer services team, who can assist you by checking if your RingGo account has been compromised and share information with your payment provider to support refund claims.”
YourMoney.com also flagged this with Google which told us it was investigating the issue. A Google spokesperson, said: “Protecting users is our top priority. We have strict policies that govern the kinds of ads that we allow to run on our platform. Where we find ads that breach our policies we take immediate action and will continue to improve our processes. In 2022 we blocked or removed over 5.2 billion ads and suspended more than 6.7 million advertiser accounts.”
After checking back, we Googled ‘RingGo’ and saw that both the legitimate site and app were ranking in the top positions of the search engine.
Below is the legitimate RingGo site when Googled which is ranking in top place now:
However, while this threat seems to have been dealt with, drivers are urged to be on guard as scammers will always adapt tools and methods to try to steal your money. And with more and more councils moving towards cashless parking, they could look to exploit this further.
Move to cashless parking
Bromley is just one of a number of councils that has scrapped or is in the process of scrapping pay and display machines in favour of cashless app parking for drivers.
The Times reported that Brighton and Hove City as well as Harrow and Enfield Councils are making the move, while Westminster City Council hasn’t had a coin operated machine since 2019.
As well as the cost in servicing them, many councils have cited the big 3G switch off for the move.
However, charities and organisations have raised concerns about the impact it could have on older and vulnerable road users.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, also wrote to every local authority in England last month urging them to rethink the move to cashless parking.
He wrote: “Cash remains legal tender and it will continue to be used in our daily lives by people who favour its accessibility and ease.
“I am therefore concerned that local authorities should ensure that there are alternative provisions for parking payments available so that no part of society is digitally excluded.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Cashless car parks can be very frustrating for older people who don’t have a smartphone and find themselves unable to park when and where they want to. We are repeatedly hearing of many instances where this is having a negative impact on people’s ability to get out and about and access essential services. It’s really important that an offline option is always available for those who cannot or choose not to go online, to avoid people being excluded.”
Abrahams added that while getting online can make life easier in many ways, it also comes with the risk of scams and fraud.
She said: “Fraudsters continue to be increasingly sophisticated in taking advantage of the digitalisation of essential services, and we must do all we can to ensure older people can use the internet safely.”
Age UK publishes free information and advice here, or you can call its advice line on 0800 169 65 65.
Natalie Ceeney, who chaired the Access to Cash Review, said: “There are still five million people who rely on cash. Many don’t have smart phones, are older, or struggle to use digital payments. And some have mobility issues. Are we saying that these people can no longer park in car parks? Parking operators need to be creative and ensure that people who rely on cash can still use these essential services.”