Taxi scams that can ruin your holiday

taxi scams

When you first arrive for your holiday in a new country, you're a prime target for scammers, who often wait in the taxi rank to take advantage of newcomers. It's therefore worth getting to grips with some of the most common holiday taxi scams, so you know what to watch for.

SEE ALSO: Airbnb scams - how to say safe and protect yourself

See also: Scamwatch: bogus online bargains

The best way to protect yourself is to get to know the common scams before you travel. That way even if you're half asleep when you arrive, you won't be taken for a ride.

1. Unlicensed taxis
Go online before you travel, and learn what licensed taxis look like, and what licences and ID they have to display. This will help you avoid the unlicensed taxis, where scams are more frequent.

2. 'Broken' meters
A typical scam is not to turn the meter on when you get into the cab, and just make up a fare. If you complain, the driver will tell you the meter is broken. Elsewhere, there is no tradition of having a meter on display at all. These tricks leave the taxi driver free to invent any fare they want.

Before you get into a cab, check the meter is on. If it's not on, or there isn't one, you need to agree a fixed fare before you get in. It means it's worth checking the going rate before you travel, so you know what kind of fare to accept.

3. The wrong tariff
Taxis will charge different rates depending on the time of day, destination or travel zone. Check what you are expecting, so if they flick the meter over to a more expensive tariff, you can raise your concerns.

4. Failing to 'zero' the meter
Some drivers will not put the meter back to zero when you get into the cab, so that you pay for the previous person's trip on top of yours. Check it's at zero before you start.

5. 'Extra' charges
The driver may try to bump up the fair with 'extras' - claiming it costs more for luggage, toll fees, or additional passengers. In some cases this is perfectly legitimate, so check the rules of the country and city before you go. If the local rules don't add these extras, you can check before you get in that there will be no spurious 'extras' on arrival.

6. The long way round
If you're planning a long journey - such as from the airport to your hotel - have a look online at the route before you go, and look up how much it tends to cost. If the driver appears to be taking the scenic route in order to bump up the price, you can raise it with them. It's also a good idea to follow the route on your smartphone or a map. If they see you doing this, the driver knows you're keeping an eye on him or her.

7. Stopping for petrol
Some drivers will say they need to fill up on the way - to bump up the fare while they are taking their time in the petrol station. When you get in, try to take a look at the fuel gauge, to see if they are running low. That way you can challenge spurious claims, and if they are actually running low you can find another driver who has the petrol to get you where you need to go.

8. The old switcheroo
One old chestnut is used if you pay with a large denomination note. If it's dark, the driver will take the note, switch it for a small denomination, and tell you that you handed over the wrong note. If you're not familiar with the money, you may assume you've made a mistake, and hand over another large note. It's worth taking smaller notes for the journey, and paying with a number of them. The switch is far harder to carry off with a fistful of small notes and coins.

9. The alternative hotel
The driver may tell you that your chosen hotel has closed, or is rubbish: they may simply take you to a different hotel without comment. They will have an arrangement with the hotel that they get a cut of any custom they bring, and you could find yourself somewhere overpriced and shoddy. If you have already paid for your hotel, check you end up where you expect to be, or you could end up paying twice.

10. Leaving with your luggage
Some drivers will take your money, and then when you get out of the car, they will drive away with your luggage. The best way to avoid this is to refuse to hand over money until they have helped you get the bags out of the boot.

As a basic rule of thumb, the best protection is research, being prepared to challenge your driver, and if all else fails, getting their details so you can report them to their boss or the police. Make a note of your driver's taxi number and licence - possibly even take a picture. Don't be afraid to let them see what you are doing, so they know you have their details if they decide to rip you off. You should also ask for a receipt, which you will need to prove you were in the taxi.

And finally, if you're ever uncertain at all, get out, walk away, and find another taxi. It's worth taking five minutes longer to find a safer way home.

Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.

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