Marathon runner scammed by fake parking lot attendant in downtown Houston

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Runners beware! A marathon runner fell victim to a parking scam Saturday morning in downtown Houston.

Chris Berry left downtown Houston Saturday with a medal for participating in the Houston Marathon 5K run, and a hole in his wallet.

He parked at a private lot across from Toyota Center early Saturday morning.

"There was a problem with the parking lot ticket kiosk machine," Berry said. "It wasn't printing receipts for the dashboards."

That's when he said a man in a red parka, with what appeared to be a business logo on it walked up.

"He was friendly and helpful, and said we could pay with cash," Berry said. "It cost $10 and I gave him $20. He gave me $10 bill back and a ticket stub."

Berry said about a dozen other people did the same. And when they returned to their cars, they found their tires had "boots" on them.

That was about the time the "Boot Man" arrived and said they would have to pay $118 to have the devices removed.

The stub Berry and others had been given apparently belonged to a valet service.

A representative of the company said it doesn't operate at parking lots, stating that parking receipts are sometimes stolen, and used by scam artists posing as lot attendants. Because the parking lot company wasn't paid, it called in the boot contractor.

"I've parked downtown a lot," Berry said. "Nothing like this has ever happened to me before," he said while looking at the violation notice and his receipt for having the boots removed from two tires on his car.

Saturday night, the parking lot had two attendants on duty, warning people not to give cash to anyone to park, but to use the lot payment kiosk instead.

Berry echoes that advice, but feels the situation wasn't handled properly at the time.

"I want to warn people parking downtown tomorrow that this happened to me and other people in that parking lot," Berry said.

While Berry plans to run Sunday's half marathon, he also plans to have a friend drive him.

"I don't know that we'll be parking," Berry said.

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