Saturday, 20 December 2014

Spot the deadly fake taxi on your international travels!

Shocking Fake Taxi
Would you be able to pick out a fake taxi in a foreign land, where everything is new to you?
What if you're extremely tired from a long-haul flight? Or you've had too much to drink?
Can you spot the signs that this is a fake taxi?
Tip: right click the picture to open it in a new window, for a close-up view.
Once you have given the picture a good look over, scroll down to see the answers below.

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.

The most likely locations of taking a fake taxi are China, Lebanon, Colombia, Brazil, Belgium, France (Paris), and Nigeria though it has and can literally take place anywhere in the world.

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. 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
Truth be told, fake taxi drivers are getting more and more clever all the time in order to dupe travelers, but if you follow the above guidelines you should minimize your chances of being in a very unfavourable situation.

Shocking Fake Taxi
To the trained eye this is a fake taxi. It has magnetic removable sign on the door that is slightly misaligned, the top TAXI sign on the roof is out of proportion and the company's logo or dispatch telephone number do not appear on the rear of the vehicle.
So be it, ride it and you'll be unaware that the fare is then mechanically controlled by the driver who will charge at his own will, regardless of the destination or distance. Upon reaching your destination, the shocking high price will be demanded. Hanoi, Vietnam, SE Asia.
Source: Emilio Labrador on flickr (permission requested)

Have a scary story about a fake taxi? Please contact us so we can update our travel pages and alert other future travelers.

Related resources:
Smart travel advice from IHateTaxis:

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