Parking lot scam peaks during tough economy

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Steps from Memphis Police headquarters sits a parking lot.

"Just right across the street from the police station they have no shame," said Joe Moore.

Shameless crooks are preying on people simply looking for a place to park in this lot and all over the city.

"And tell them they work for the lot and that it's going cost them five dollars to park," said Moore.

It's a scam Moore knows all too well.  He runs Premier System Parking, which owns more than 30 lots.

"Just about everyday, we have somebody arrested," said Moore.

He tells Action News 5 the declining economy has sent the number of arrests through the roof.  The reason is obvious.

"They need money -- I mean, they got to eat," said Moore.

Vincent Marshall is accused of running this scam and is currently sitting in jail.  He was seen approaching at least six vehicles pulling into a parking lot on Adams.

Many of the lots in downtown Memphis have automated machines or other places to deposit your money. So, if anyone who appears to be an attendant asks for your money, consider it a red flag.

"They're even real nice and help people park, but it's just a scam," said Brenda Pryor.

She watches from her office across the street as people get taken and has overheard victim complaints.

"Well, I paid the attendant -- we don't have an attendant," she said.

Joe Moore showed us what his attendants always wear.

"All of our attendants wear uniforms with ID's and have a valid parking ticket that they give you," said Moore.

He hopes an eventual economic upswing will improve his odds.

In some cases, Moore believes customers may realize the person asking for many is a phony.  They give them money anyway because they fear their car may be vandalized.

Click here to e-mail Jason Miles.