How to Avoid a Taxi Scam: Part I

After hearing horror stories about travelers being charged ridiculously high and unreasonable fares by taxi drivers, it is no wonder that many of us are skeptical and cautious when taking taxis.  Although there are certainly fair and trustworthy taxi drivers, it is still necessary that travelers are aware and prepared when using cabs.  The only way to truly protect yourself from a scam is to be prepared and knowledgeable about the region you are taking a taxi.

Some taxi drivers will do anything to make an extra dollar or two off of gullible riders.  Therefore, it is necessary to be aware of some of the most common taxi scams that have fooled innocent riders for years.

  • The age old trick of claiming the meter is broken, although simple, is a popular scam that allows drivers to overcharge riders easily, sometimes charging a few extra dollars, sometimes quadrupling the real fare.
  • Some might think that agreeing on a fare ahead of time could easily solve this problem, but often, taxi drivers agree to one price and then claim another once stopped.  Drivers have the experience to argue with the rider enough so that they can eventually win the unfair price dispute.
  • Other times, drivers may be using tampered or counterfeited meters that display different, higher rates; these meters often blend in but charge ridiculously higher fares.

These scams are quite common and straightforward, while others are much more devious and complicated:

  • A tactic used by some taxi drivers involves switching a large bill with one of lesser denomination.  The driver may pretend to drop the bill or slyly take a large bill and exchange it with a similar, smaller bill, claiming the passenger made a mistake and did not pay enough and make them pay again.
  • Similar to this scam, many drivers are given counterfeit bills, depending on what region you are in, and look for way to dispose of the bills as change to customers.


So the main concern of many travelers today is: How can I avoid being fooled and scammed by taxi drivers?  The few tips and recommendations below should help every taxi rider feel more confident, comfortable, and prepared to conquer even the most devious taxi driver.

Be prepared.  Research, knowledge, and confidence will help you avoid some of the common taxi scams and unnecessary cab charges listed already.  Always know what to expect for the region you are traveling in and approach the taxi with confidence backed up with previous knowledge.  With the following tips in mind, you should be able to dodge any trick or scam a cab driver throws your way.

Be skeptical. Better to be safe than sorry.  Travelers should always act cautiously when taking a taxi.  Ask for all information before accepting a ride and do not accept any favors.  Drivers offering to load and unload bags may charge you for this seemingly kind gesture.  When you finally agree on the ride, check that the doors can be manually locked/unlocked and that the meter is starting from zero or the initial fare.  Additionally, beware of tricks that some drivers know to increase the fare, such as spinning tires in snow to rack up the meter or asking for payment to return to the original destination.  Although these both seem like bogus attempts, they happen often and many cab riders fall for it.  When paying the driver, be sure to count your money out loud as a cashier might do when returning change to a customer, to avoid any confusion or debate about payment.

Look for How to Avoid a Taxi Scam: Part II next week for more tips on how to protect yourself from being fooled.