Saturday, December 26, 2009

City of Oakland Parking Ticket Scam

We received a delightful Christmas present from the City of Oakland, California, today -- a parking citation titled ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW DECISION - LIABLE demanding $68, or double that if we don't pay by January 13th.

The license plate number on the citation is ours -- but they say it's a four-door silver Toyota. We've never owned a Toyota.

Moreover, my husband's never been to Oakland, which is hundreds of miles from here, and I think the last time I was there I was about 13 years old.

The parking citation date was on our daughter's birthday last October, when we were busy here visiting Disneyland and watching the USC-Notre Dame game.

Here's the kicker: in order to contest this -- whether by phone, mail, or in person -- the city demands that we pay the fine up front! They will not hold a hearing and review it without the payment of the fine.

How can that possibly be legal when this is so clearly an error on the part of the city? Guilty until proven innocent? The state and also the City of Oakland are hard up for money...I suspect they want to have use of people's money for a few months and then if you're lucky you might get it back.

We don't intend to pay...let's hope we can get through and speak to someone reasonable next week. Anecdotal stories posted on the web lead me to suspect this is going to be a miserable experience.

I'm posting this with the thought there may be others out there experiencing the same thing, who will find it of interest to know it's happening to others, or perhaps someone else has been through this and can share how they resolved the problem.

December 28th Update: The city's parking division is closed all week and will not reopen until January 4th.

January 4th Update: My husband got through after a long time on hold and was able to get an employee to look up our plate in the computer. The employee admitted that the license plate doesn't match the make of the ticketed car and that the ticket was sent to us in error; she promised to send a letter confirming we aren't liable. I'll breathe easier if/when that letter comes, but so far the news is good.

June 16, 2010 Update: Today, roughly 5 and a half months after my husband's phone conversation (described immediately above), we received a letter from Oakland clearing us of the ticket.

I'm relieved the news is good, but needless to say the delay speaks volumes about dealing with Oakland's parking division.

28 Comments:

Blogger Raquelle said...

That is completely ridiculous! You are getting a parking citation for parking somewhere you've never been in a vehicle you've never owned? And you have to pay up front before contesting?! Oh my goodness. It sounds like a scam. Or some form of identity theft. Someone put your information down as the info for their vehicle and then committed a parking violation. I hope it all works out.


The town of Somerville, MA (where I work) is horrendous for parking. They accounted parking fees into their yearly budgets. They ticket for things like not having your parking permit sticker completely affixed to your windshield or using a visitor pass more than 2 days in a row. Or parking the wrong way on a one way street, which may be a one way street or may be half one way or half two way. Argh! It makes me not want to visit the town at all during my off hours.

Keep us informed! I hope you are able to beat this.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

One or two of the stories I've read on the web indicate that citations in Oakland commonly have transposed license plate numbers...that might be what happened too. I just can't believe that even to appeal by mail they want money! This should be able to be handled by a simple phone call or letter.

We sold a car a few months ago and immediately afterwards the new owner received a parking citation which was sent to us...all we had to do was mail the enclosed form back to the city of Westminster with an explanation and the sale date in a place provided for that type information. I don't understand why Oakland is so nasty, including sending a rude, threatening letter. The city has a reputation for being one of the worst in the state and this sure goes along with that.

Sounds like Somerville is a challenge too! Thanks for the sympathy, Raquelle!

Best wishes,
Laura

5:51 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Wow, Laura, a scam indeed! Unbelievable. I hope that you are able to nip this in the bud but given that it's Oakland, and that it's a city bureaucracy, my guess is that they will make it as miserable as possible, hoping to wear you down and fork over the money. I bet most people probably just give up rather than hold the line and stick to their guns. And that may be the intent behind their nastiness and inaccessibility. Good luck and keep us poster.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Dana! I keep rereading this letter in a state of disbelief. Never seen anything like it, an initial communication having such an aggressive tone.

Research on the 'Net shows that Oakland is apparently using parking fines to help balance their budget; earlier this year the city raised "meter rates to an unconscionable $2 per hour and, even worse, to extend enforcement hours to 8 p.m. In addition, all ticket fines have been increased as has the level of enforcement of violations."

Also, guilty until proven innocent seems to be par for the course in Oakland. It's disturbing.

Best wishes,
Laura

7:52 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

If they don't rectify the issue, try getting the local media involved if there are a lot of similar complaints on the web page. Try to get a local newspaper or TV reporter to "reveal" the scam. Also, call the State's Attorney General's office and try to get help dealing with this fraud.

Good luck and let us know what happens!!

8:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Missy. I'm hoping this can be taken care of with a simple phone call telling them to check the DMV again and my concern will be for naught, but if it gets ugly the attorney general's office is a great idea. Ironically the attorney general used to be the mayor of...Oakland.

Best wishes,
Laura

8:24 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I have just experienced something similar to this. I received a parking ticket back in September for street sweeping near my office. It was my fault as I did not get back to my car in time, so I did pay the ticket in person and kept my receipt. There was a mistake on the hand written ticket as they said my car was a Mitsubishi, when in fact it is a Lincoln, I notified them about it but still had payed because it was my fault and it did have my license plate number. A few weeks later they sent a notice for what I thought was the same citation, and as it states, to please disregard if the citation has been paid in full and I did. Well a few days before Christmas I receive a final notice that says if I don't pay within 15 days it will go to collections, withhold vehicle registration, negative credit reporting, ect, ect. As this caught my attention, further investigation shows that this is a different citation number but for the same violation, issued 5 days later from the initial one at a different location on the other side of town (in a neighborhood I have never been in nor would have no business in) and also states my correct license plate number as well as Mitsubishi (again I own a Lincoln). Because of the furloughs I was not able to speak to anyone until today. I explained the situation, and they showed me both the original one I had payed, and the one that is now in question. They explained that I did not receive the 2nd one because it was noted as a "Drive-off" saying that I drove off before they were able to give me the ticket. It was issued by the same officer, same handwriting, same violation, and same mistake of Mitsubishi. After explaining the situation and showing them proof that I had payed for this violation and that I believed they had made a mistake, they said I will not be able to contest it because it is already passed due and I am still liable for this 2nd violation. He also mentioned that even if I were able to contest it, it would be hard to prove that I was not at that location at that time and would most likely lose the contest anyways. Well now what was originally a $63 fine is now a $148 fine. I would have had no problem paying another $63 if I in fact did commit another violation, I certainly wouldn't have waited for an increase in fee. With the threat of this going to collections over $148 and getting the run around with the teller and manager at the payment center, I have just been scammed by the City of Oakland for $148 + $2 processing fee.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Matt. How frustrating!

I suggest alerting the attorney general to your experience. If enough people complain about their sloppy practices perhaps pressure can be brought to bear. Based on the number of hits I've been getting on Oakland parking tickets and stories I've read on the web, we have not experienced unique situations.

Best wishes,
Laura

6:42 PM  
Blogger richsophvilla said...

Laura,

We are going through the same thing. I got a ticket in the mail last week claiming that my car was parked in a red zone. I live about 2 hours away from Oakland, and never go there. They also had the correct plate number but the make and model was also listed as a 4 door silver Toyota, and given to us on my sons birthday, which we were sure not in Oakland for! I sent pics and an email last week prooving that my license plate number belongs to a 4 door RED FORD 500 and not a Toyota... still have not heard back. I think we need to go further than jsut call them.... I have been on hold for ever and no answer!!!

Good luck with your situation.

Sophie

3:44 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

What an interesting story, Sophie -- so familiar!

It's been over 2 weeks since my husband phoned and we have yet to receive the promised letter "clearing" us...I'm really worried the next thing we might receive will be not the letter, but a ticket for a higher fee.

Something strange is going on in Oakland, that's for sure.

Best wishes and good luck,
Laura

4:27 PM  
Blogger Jane Lee said...

I have exactly the same experience. I received a ticket from Oakland with my license plate but a completely different description of car model and color. My car is a Lexus SUV in Bamboo Green but the ticket is for a 4 door BMW in Gray. Furthermore, I have never been in Oakland for years. I chose to contest by email, there was no response. I followed up with letter, again no response. I went to the Parking Citation Assistance Center and was told to fill a form with all the pertinent document. A few days ago, I received a letter from the Law Enforcement Systems, Inc. for a total due of $192. Otherwise additional enforcement actions as allowed by law.
I am now writing letters to the Oakland Mayor Office, Action Line of SJ Mercury News, Roadshow.....

11:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Jane. Please update us when you're able.

It's now been several weeks since my husband spoke with the office and we have yet to receive the letter "clearing" us, so I'm a bit nervous we may yet receive a ticket with an increased fee. Why did they say they'd send a letter if they had no intention of doing so?

This office seems to be run with an extreme lack of professionalism, to say the least, and one really has to wonder about deliberate fraud or criminal intent.

Best wishes,
Laura

8:21 AM  
Blogger Teri said...

i live in oakland. they are absolutely horrific! even if you bought a time for parking, you will still get a ticket. and if you contest it, they will act as if they did not get your paperwork, and then double the fine for being late. i am sorry about your experience.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Jane Lee said...

I have sent letters to all of the following and more, I suggest you to do the same in order to get to the bottom of it.
*Chief Anthony W. Batts
Oakland Police Department
455 7th Street
Oakland, CA 94607
*Assistant Chief Howard A. Jordan
Oakland Police Department
455 7th Street
Oakland, CA 94607
*Mayor Ron Dellums
One Frank Ogawa Plaza
(One City Hall Plaza)
3rd Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
*Action Line
San Jose Mercury News
750 Ridder Park Drive
San Jose, Ca. 95190
*Mr. Gary Richards
Roadshow
San Jose Mercury News
750 Ridder Park Drive
San Jose, Ca. 95190
*Attorney General’s Office
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
*KRON4, Bay Area News Station
*KTVU, Bay Area News Station
*ABC7 News, San Francisco Bay Area TV Station

12:04 AM  
Blogger Jane Lee said...

Noel Pinto
Chief Operations Manager
Parking Enforcement Dept.
250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 6300
Oakland, CA 94612
Office: (510) 986-2690

1:40 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for this outstanding address research, Jane! I would love to know about any responses you might receive.

This post continues to receive numerous visits so I suspect your contact info will prove useful for many others.

Best wishes,
Laura

2:50 PM  
Blogger Jane Lee said...

Best thing is to go direct to Noel Pinto as directed by the Chief Office of the Oakland Police Department ASAP.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Jane Lee said...

No response from anyone yet.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the follow-up, Jane! I still open my mail with bated breath, wondering if they really cleared up our situation or if, as others have experienced, we get a bigger bill down the road even though they acknowledged the mistake. We never did receive the promised letter "clearing" us.

Best wishes,
Laura

10:43 PM  
Blogger Jane Lee said...

Noel Pinto
Chief Operations Manager
Parking Enforcement Dept.
250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 6300
Oakland, CA 94612
Office: (510) 986-2690

11:02 PM  
Blogger Jane Lee said...

Finally, I got a call today saying my ticket was dismissed and a follow up letter will be in the mail.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Good news so far, Jane! Let us know if you ever get the letter -- ours has never come.

Best wishes,
Laura

2:32 PM  
Blogger Jane Lee said...

Yes, I did. It was just a standard form. No reason was given. Allen S. (510) 238-3743 could be the person for you to contact to get the formal letter from them. If bill was sent to the collection agency, a copy of the dismiss letter should be sent to the Parking Enforcement Department to clear up the credit record. Good luck and let me know when you have everything squared away.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Kally said...

I got a ticket on 10/27, which because it had an extra $15 for god knows what, added to it (total $63, I believe), I waited to pay until I got the notice in the mail, just to understand what that extra $15 was for. I did pay the $63 ticket, but still received a notice in the mail with the same citation number telling me that the fee had increased to $87 and that I had just 15 days to pay. I sent a letter to the citation officials with a photo copy of the check with the citation number on it that they had cashed (their stamp was on the back of the check). They just sent me a letter back in response saying that the fee has been increased to $110, and a threat to send it to collections, with no reference to my claim that it had already been paid. Each time I call the number for help, they say it is over 60 minutes wait time, no matter what time I call (when they just open at 9am) or what day. What frustration! I would also like to register a complaint, but first, I would like to avoid collections for a citation that I have already paid. Oy vey!

12:39 AM  
Blogger Pierre said...

it's so enraging and frustrating to be taken advantage of like that by the city of Oakland. That has to be illegal. Something has to be done.....

6:24 PM  
Blogger SFChris said...

My situation is identical to Kally. In February 2010 I received a parking ticket for $55 in Oakland: $37 for parking and $18 for "Current Tags". I took a photo of the tags on my car and emailed it to myself to prove the tags were current on that day. I sent the photo along with payment of $37. On 11/22 I received an "Administrative Review Decision - Liable" with an amount due of $55.00. The original check had not yet cleared (after 6 months!), so I almost sent it again, but I had 21 days and by 12/10 it finally cleared (they had it the whole time)! I then sent a letter showing the cleared check and an additional payment of $18.00. I sent it certified, and it was received 12/13. On 1/6/11 I was mailed another notice "DMV Hold - Intention to Notify" with a demand for $63.00 increasing to $90.00 after 2/2/11. I refuse to give them more money if they can't even figure out what to do with the money I've already paid. Wish me luck!

10:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

There really needs to be some kind of legal action against this parking division. They are completely incompetent and/or there is criminal activity going on -- I'm not sure which!

Best wishes,
Laura

10:17 PM  
Blogger Andréa said...

YOU ALL HAVE PARKING STORIES! Let's help one another out and put our heads together to save ourselves and everyone else the headache!

Concerned citizens blogging to help one another through the murky waters of Oakland's Parking & Citation lagoon.
http://oaklandparkingtickets.blogspot.com/

11:41 PM  

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