It happens all over the world and has resulted in numerous rip-offs, robberies, sexual assaults, kidnapping and murder – taking a fake taxi could be your last trip.
All too often, most assume everything that looks like a taxi must be a taxi and therefore, by default, we numb our minds and jump-in without a second thought. More often than not, our minds are even more trusting of taxis in foreign lands where everything is new or when we have consumed considerable alcohol.
Most fake taxi drivers do it for economic reasons – no insurance, no taxi license, and a cash only system that generates considerable profits.
Other fake taxi drivers have more nefarious objectives, such as:
- Purposefully rigging their meters to jump wildly (China, Thailand)
- Counterfeit money laundering (China)
- Violent robberies (Brazil, Colombia and Namibia)
- Intent to sexually assault women (Brussels, Paris, Toronto, UK)
How to spot a fake
There are some common things you should look for with respect to fake taxis:
- Different colour scheme from the dominant registered licensed taxis you see driving about
- No taxi license in the vehicle
- Cash only
- No presence of an actual meter
- Taxi driver approaches you and encourages you to use their vehicle versus waiting in a queue
- Physical characteristics (really a judgment call) on whether they look like an official taxi driver
- Several occupants in the vehicle
- Displayed photo identification does not match driver's facial features
- Removable or flimsy taxi sign on roof
- Substandard working condition
- Invalid or non-existent license plates
- Non-existent dispatch system
- No GPS in vehicle yet such units are readily seen in other taxis in the area you are visiting 7
How to avoid or deal with the fake
Tips on avoiding or dealing with fake taxis:
- Always travel with a companion, especially if you a woman leaving a bar at the end of the night - a fake taxi driver will be less likely target you if you are less vulnerable (with a companion)
- Do research on the internet (i.e. ihatetaxis.com) beforehand, to familiarize yourself with what official taxi cab companies operate in the city you are visiting OR upon arrival at the airport go to the information desk to ask "what does an official taxi look like?"
- Always call or book online for a taxi from a licensed company - Google such companies online, or have your hotel call you one (often called a 'radio taxi')
- If a radio taxi is not available, go to an official taxi queue line near a major hotel, shopping mall etc.
- The taxi driver should recite your name when picking you up, and if they don't, then they are not the designated pick-up person for you
- Always sit in the back seat of a taxi to avoid any contentious situation, albeit a legitimate taxi or fake one - you want to be unencumbered should you need to flee
- If there is a meter present, and it is behaving erratically without a legitimate explanation, if you are in a safe area, ask the driver politely to pull over, place the money on the seat and get out (while this may or may not be a fake taxi, there is a scam going on and best you remove yourself from the situation)
- Have your cellular phone charged up and ready to either videotape and or call the police at a moment`s notice
- Carry small change so as to avoid getting fake currency change back - you should also be able to drop the exact fare (or a bit more) on the seat and walk off in a dispute
- Under all circumstances, where possible, travel with your bags with you in the car and not the trunk (access to the trunk will be used as unfair leverage if you refuse to comply with unreasonable demands)
- If you are being attacked or placed in a very vulnerable situation, scream or yell to alert nearby people of your plight – this could force the driver to stop his nefarious plans with you
Have a scary story about a fake taxi? Please contact us so we can update our travel pages and alert other future travelers.
- What a real New York City cab looks like
- Beware the Fake Green Taxi: New Taxi Rule Causes Taxi Scam Problem
- How to spot a rogue taxi? (Ho Minh City)
- Dongguan taxi driver takes to Weibo to teach you how to spot a fake taxi
- Fake Chinese Taxi Takes Police Officer For a Ride on Its Roof
- Warnings Reissued – Never Trust Unlicensed Transfers
Smart travel advice from IHateTaxis:
- Dealing with Taxi Drivers
- Dealing with Touts
- Taxi Rates & Fares: Airport Taxi Advice
- Airport Arrival Advice