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Beware of These Taxi Scams

In our recent series of articles about travel scams (10 Worst Travel Rip-Offs … And How to Avoid Them, The Five Worst Travel Scams, and Terrible Scams and Rip-Offs), readers wrote in with additional scams they’d seen. A number of the comments detailed taxi scams from around the world. Here are some to watch out for.

Long Hauling in Las Vegas

Many of you reported less-than-honest behavior from Las Vegas taxi drivers. Reader anthonylee05 describes the basic grift: “Instead of the most direct route the driver would take me onto a much longer route in order to make the most money.” What to do if it happens to you? Reader gentlemanspirit mentions that there’s even a phone number to report taxi scams. The Nevada Taxi Cab Authority, which calls the practice of taking the long way “long hauling,” has an online complaint form, a long route voluntary witness statement, and also fields complaints by phone at 702-668-4000.

Knowing the approximate fare and the complaint process can sometimes be enough to combat an inflated fare. Reader edgewaterbob writes, “This has happened to me as well. Luckily I was aware of the route and usual fare to Bally’s and after pointing this out to the driver they will always credit you the amount off the meter. Vegas cabbies are strictly regulated and they don’t want any complaints filed against them.”  The Nevada Taxicab Authority lists updated approximate fares between the airport and individual hotels, and has a Did You Know page full of tips, for instance, that the “I-215 tunnel from McCarran airport is NEVER the shortest route to ANY Las Vegas Strip hotel.” Good to know.

Las Vegas is by no means the only place you’ll find taxi scams. Here are a few more reported by our readers from around the world:

Giving Counterfeit Change

NoMoreMrNiceGuy says: “Not the biggest scam out there, but common (we found it in Argentina and Israel) – getting counterfeit or obsolete bills back from taxi drivers as change. The transaction is usually hurried and often in the dark, making it difficult to check the bills. Be sure to carry lots of small denomination bills and coins, so you don’t need much or any change back from the driver.” After reading that comment, david_fulano added, “this is how it happened to me in Buenos Aires: really friendly taxi driver explained that he was nearing the end of his shift and had lots of small bills. Would I mind paying with a $100 (100 pesos) note and taking the little money off his hands? Well, sure, why not? Well, the next day I found out when paying for lunch on the ferry from Tigre that the $50 note I had gotten as part of my change was counterfeit. The equivalent (then) of $16 U.S., it was not an expensive lesson but a good one nonetheless!”

Taking Double Payment

Two readers report similar scams in Istanbul. Gamoviegal writes: “While in Istanbul we took a cab home from a restaurant. I handed driver the fare, he held it down on his lap and then said I had not given him the full amount. I thought maybe I had made a mistake so gave him more money, he did the same AGAIN!! I knew then I had made no mistake either time and I just left the cab after telling him I wasn’t giving him any more money!” And byoss advises: “When visiting in Istanbul it was not uncommon for taxi drivers to accept payment for a 6 million lira fare, paid with a 1 million & 5 million note, then palm one or both notes and show you a 100,000 and/or 500,000 note and tell you that you got confused using their “monopoly” money and then trade you the “wrong” bill for the correct one. Essentially, they got you to pay twice. Always exit the taxi first, show the driver the correct bills, get him to agree that the payment is correct, then hand him the bills.”

Leaving the Meter Off

MBrandes1 reports, “I was scammed by a taxi driver in Athens, Greece. I didn’t realize he didn’t have the meter on, and when we arrived at the hotel, he demanded $50. Inside, the desk clerk told me it should have been half that. After that, I asked each taxi driver if he used a meter. Some said ‘no’ and I refused to ride with them. Lesson learned.”

Have you run across these or other taxi scams? Please share them below.

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