Looks legit
Looks legit

We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Drivers, beware? On Wednesday, the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles—with help from the Washington Post, WTOP, and WJLA—warned about emails coming from a phishing site posing as the “D.C. Parking Authority.”

In the DMV’s telling, the scam site duped users into entering personal information in an attempt to pay nonexistent parking tickets. The DMV urged anyone who received the email to report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

That was news to the creator of the Parking Authority, who created the site not as phishing scam but as an April Fools’ joke to dupe his friends. In the April 1 email he sent threatening friends with impoundment of their cars, there are several clues that it’s a joke. The District’s actual government doesn’t normally chide parking scofflaws with “naughty, naughty,” for example, or say it’s operating under “DC Law and other stuff.”

You can’t even enter any credit card information on the site, since it’s a static image. The website does offer a style feature on parking boots, though, as well as text next to a picture of Vladimir Putin announcing that the DMV is implementing “the Putin Performance Measures.” That nuance was lost on the DMV and the reporters who ran with their press release, none of whom noted that the site was all obviously a joke. 

The site’s creator asked to stay anonymous, now that his April Fools’ joke-gone-wrong has been called a phishing attack.

“Not a single ounce of effort went into reporting the story,” he writes in an email to LL.