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A street-smart Boston native falls for parking scam

Posted by boston.com  January 13, 2014 02:11 PM

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I always thought I was street smart.
 
But my urban ego took a major beating last week when I got swindled by a con man near the TD Garden.
 
It was Saturday afternoon, and bitterly cold outside. I was on my way to the Bruins game with my girlfriend, Katie, her 11-year-old daughter, Madison, and her 12-year-old friend Alyssa. We had driven into the city from the northwest suburbs.
 
We were all decked out in black and gold and excited for the game, until we discovered the parking lot where we usually park was full. The game was starting soon. So we turned onto Canal Street and sat in traffic, inching ever so slowly toward the Garden, desperately looking for a parking space and growing increasingly anxious as the minutes ticked away.
 
Drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, I turned to Katie. “Why don’t I drop you and the girls off, so you don’t miss the beginning of the game?” I suggested, realizing that the chances of finding a spot on Canal Street were about as slim as winning the lottery.

Right after I said that, a man standing in the driveway of a parking lot stepped out into the street in front of our car. He was waving his arms and gesturing us toward the lot, like an airport marshal directing a plane on the tarmac.
 
I followed his lead and drove into the lot, which was nestled between Boston Beer Works (112 Canal St.) and Sports Grille Boston (132 Canal St.).

There was only one spot left, and we took it. After we got out of the car, I asked him how much it cost to park there. He said $40, and I handed him two $20 bills. He pocketed the money and strolled slowly out of the lot, in the direction of the Sports Grille. He said that’s where he worked out of. I asked him if we needed a ticket to put on our windshield.

“No,” he said. “I’ll do that later. You’re all set.”

And so the four of us started walking to the Garden. We had a grand time at the game, and the Bruins won, 4-1. Then we returned to the parking lot, ready to head home.

Our stomachs turned when we saw our parking space was empty: Our car was gone.

We eventually figured out it had been towed. We called a cab to drive us to the back alleys near Southampton Street and we had to pay $131 to get the car out of the tow lot. Between the taxi fare, the towing fee, and the money the “parking attendant” stole from us, we lost approximately $190 — and wasted a lot of time and energy just trying to get home.
 
On the drive back, Katie and I tried to console the girls. I tried to explain to them that Boston is not a bad place; there are crazy people everywhere. (Which, in retrospect, probably didn’t make them feel any better.)
 
“What about our forty dollars?” asked Madison.
 
Good question. I wished I had an answer for her.

Later on, I went to the police station to file a report. The officer at the front desk shook her head glumly and informed me that I had fallen for what is apparently a very common scam. Now, I’m a native Bostonian and Dot Rat at heart; I grew up in Fields Corner, and Bowdoin/Geneva is my old neighborhood. I know parking is insane for Bruins and Celtics games. I just wish I had known about this particular scam.

Thinking back, it was the perfect con. We were in a rush to get to the game — perfect victims. The con artist was perfectly calm because he knew he could disappear into a crowd of black and gold Bruins fans at any given moment, if he really needed to.
 
It was the perfect crime.
 
And this guy was good. Talk about a smooth operator. His impersonation of a parking attendant was flawless. I can only imagine that he does this before every Bruins game, and suburban drivers are his prime target.
 
So, watch out for this guy. He’s a white male in his 30s or 40s, with dark hair, a strong nose and jawline, and a 5 o’clock shadow. He was about 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds. He was wearing a knit winter hat, gray hooded sweatshirt, and what appeared to be a bright yellow construction vest. If you go to that parking lot on Canal Street before the next Bruins game, you’ll probably find him scamming other unknowing victims. Spread the word to your friends. Don’t fall for it.
 
If I see him, I’ll be asking for our $40 back.
 
Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

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