How to Avoid and Deal with Taxi Scams

Yesterday I wrote an article about the Top 10 Taxi Scams Around the World. This is Part 2 of the taxi scam installment where I will explain to you how to avoid and deal with taxi scams. If you travel as much as I do, you will inevitablely come across one or more of the following scams:

1. Long Hauling – Basically the taxi driver knows you’re a tourist and takes you on a scenic route instead of the more direct route (without telling you).

How to avoid being long hauled? Always use Google Maps beforehand to see the most direct and shortest route. Hopefully you’ll also have GPS on your phone so you can track the movement of the taxi. If you do get long hauled, call him out on it and tell him you’ll pay less than the posted fare. If you do feel that you’re getting long hauled, I would also recommend stopping at the nearest intersection and taking another taxi.

2. Taxi driver asks if you want to take the freeway (highway) or streets (local) – This is a trick question and is mostly common in Las Vegas, but could be applicable in many parts of the world. Hint: The freeway is almost always the most expensive option, so know your geography.

This is a common scam in Las Vegas and if the driver asks you immediately if you want to take the freeway or the local streets, it is a sign that he is a con artist. Again, knowing your geography will help. If you’re in Vegas and need to get to the MGM hotel, there is no point in choosing the freeway option. Even if your hotel is the Venetian, I would take the local streets. However, if your hotel is in Downtown near the Las Vegas Premium Outlets, then the freeway would be a good option. Again, you can avoid a high cab fare to downtown if you take a shared shuttle that is usually $7 per person.

3. Fake bill switch – Basically you hand over the driver a large note, $100 or $50 and the taxi driver pulls a fast one on you. Afterwards, he will tell you that you handed him a fake.

This particular scam is most prominent in Argentina where it’s notorious to find fake bills. Taxi drivers buy 100 peso notes for 50 pesos and try to do the fake bill switch. This is easily avoidable by having correct change at all times. Hotels will usually be able to change your 100 peso notes into smaller denominations. Whenever you’re paying for groceries or coffee, use a large bill. Sometimes they’ll ask for a small note, but it never hurts to try.

4. Surcharges – The driver may add a surcharge to your fare and give you a BS reason for it.

There are certain taxi surcharges such as picking you up from the airport or necessary tolls. Some city zones have surcharges during rush hour times (like Singapore). Other cities impose a surcharge for midnight hours and holidays. These surcharges should be posted in a placard inside the taxi. If you believe that you were added a surcharge incorrectly, you should call out the taxi driver on it.

5. Turbo meter – Basically the driver has installed a device in his taxi which speeds up the meter faster than usual, thus increasing the cost of your taxi

Some crooked taxi drivers install a turbo meter into their car and with a push of a button, it jacks up your fare gradually faster. Always be aware of the taxi meter. Keep an eye on it to see if it goes up rapidly or if it stays the same throughout the entire ride. This is going to be a hard one to contest, but if something feels fishy, I would just have the driver drop me off at the nearest intersection. I would take another taxi as not all taxis are equal.

6. Giving you a high fare quote – This is common in Latin America where fares are negotiated before getting into the vehicle.

Don’t be afraid to bargain for a lower fare if you feel like it’s too high. If you regret paying the fare after the ride, it’s your fault for not trying to look for a better deal. There’s always someone willing to take you to the same destination at a lower price.

7. Telling you a certain road is closed – The driver tells you the main road is closed and you must go the “long way”.

This usually happens in India and Bangkok. In India, a taxi driver would tell you that the main road is closed for a parade and that he has to take another route. The driver takes you to another route, but runs into a ceremony where the driver will hold you hostage in the car. One of the parade goers will ask you for money so they can grant the taxi a safe passage. In Bangkok, the taxi driver will tell you that the temple is closed and will bring you to various shops where he will receive a commission. These situations are unfortunate and you have to be smart about which cab you’re getting into in the first place. These type of people are usually in unauthorized taxis. Don’t use unauthorized taxis and especially where someone cat calls you for a taxi. You should be the one seeking out a taxi ride, not someone coming up to you if you need a ride.

8. The taxi driver picks up his phone and calls someone – this is a clear sign that a scam is going on. He might be calling someone to rob you.

There are several reasons why a taxi driver could be picking up his phone. He could be multi-tasking and calling his girlfriend, boss, or friend. Be sure to listen in to what he’s saying on the phone as it can give you clues if he is intending to have an accomplice do something malicious to you. The second you feel insecure about the whole phone situation, have the driver drop you off at the nearest destination. Again, this usually happens when you take unauthorized taxis.

9. The driver picks someone up – this is a clear sign something bad is going to happen.

There is absolutely no reason why a taxi driver should pick someone up when you’re en-route to your destination. Usually this means, one of two things, someone trying to extort money out of you or an express kidnapping is about to take place. It could also be harmless and he’s giving his friend a ride. What I would do in this situation is pretend to call a friend asking them to meet me at my destination. This could deter the driver from doing anything malicious. As usual, this happens if you take an unauthorized taxi cab.

10. No Change – The driver tells you he doesn’t have any change.

This can be avoided completely by having the correct change. Always pay the taxi driver in correct change so you don’t have to deal with fake bill switches or a driver claiming he doesn’t have any change.

Backtrack to theĀ Top 10 Taxi Scams Around the World.

About the Author

Points Summary
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2 Comments on "How to Avoid and Deal with Taxi Scams"

  1. You are missing a few.

    *The Credit Card machine doesn’t work, so you have to use cash.
    *The Since I quoted you a price, even though meters are legally required in this city, I’m going to shut the meter off as we pull in so you can’t see the value and then charge you the quoted price
    *The not really a taxi driver claiming to be a taxi driver
    *The we just saved you from that fake taxi driver and you should tip us (This one is like the one before, in my instance the guy who seemed like a taxi driver was carrying my bad towards the car, then took off running, should have let him have the bag, it was full of cheap dirty cloths, anyway, the alleged real tax drivers grabbed the bag from him and he ran away. But they were all in on it.
    *The two Hotel names sound the same, so rather than clarifying, I’m going to take you to the furthest one first and then guilt you for paying the full distance
    *The western currency quote without saying the currency. In this case, the driver quotes an amount that is reasonable in the local currency based on the guidebook, but on arrival claims the quote was for Euro or Dollars, multiplying the price.

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