An $18 cab ride cost Bran Ramsey’s bank account more than $2,600.
Ramsey, 26, said he hailed a taxi at the corner of Spadina Ave. and King St. W. around 2:30 a.m. Friday after a night out with friends. When the car pulled up to his home in the Junction, Ramsey handed the driver his debit card to pay for the ride. Hours later, he realized the card returned to him wasn’t his.
“It was a green TD card, but it was in French,” he said. “I immediately called the bank and talked to their fraud department. They told me there (were) 12 withdrawals and two deposits — I’m assuming empty envelopes — by the next morning.”
Ramsey said he was “tipsy, but not hammered” when he got into the car. He remembers it was a male driver, but can’t recall the cab company or taxi number. He declined the receipt that was offered to him, but said the transaction never appeared on his account anyway.
The deposits totalled $5,000. Ramsey said the bank told him his money was taken out at convenience store ATMs and the Thompson Hotel.
“The bank has reimbursed me all the withdrawals,” he said.
Despite the ordeal, Ramsey said he doesn’t want to condemn the entire cab industry.
“I’ll use cabs, but I’ll be more cautious, like realizing the car I’m in or taking a picture of the ID tag,” he said.
Toronto Police detectives believe a ring of crooked cabbies have stolen dozens of bank cards since late November. They allegedly use bogus point-of-sale machines to capture data from debit and credit accounts and then hand the customer a fake card that looks similar to their own.
Det.-Const. Jason Hunter said it’s too early to tell whether Ramsey’s case and the others are connected.
“We’ve seen these frauds and the public’s aware of them,” he said. “Just be cognizant of what card you’re giving them and what you’re getting back.”
Sajid Mughal of the iTaxiworkers Association said it’s possible the culprits aren’t even licensed taxi drivers, but “delivery people” who’ve purchased a taxi sign.
Mughal said he doesn’t believe the theory cabbies are defrauding customers because Uber has taken away business.
“Since Uber has been in the picture, cab drivers are more polite and more responsible,” he said.
WHAT CAN TAXI CUSTOMERS DO TO STAY SAFE FROM SCAMS?
Sajid Mughal, iTaxiworkers Association:
“The most important thing is the cab number on two sides of the door in the back of the car. Then you get into the car, there’s a cab number in the front customer’s seat. If you’re paying by debit or credit card, you will get the car information. If it’s a fake cab, they will not have a meter inside the car and there is a post light that comes on when you get into a cab at night. If you pay in cash, always ask for a receipt.”
Toronto Police Det.-Const. Jason Hunter:
“If there’s a problem, note the licence plate and taxi number and call police.”
Kristine Hubbard, operations manager for Beck Taxi (who added there hasn’t been any evidence to suggest the fraud cases are being committed in their cabs):
“We’ve taken steps to ensure every single Beck Taxi is using a Beck-branded point-of-sale terminal that is completely secure. There’s no reason why people should be handing over their debit card to drivers. There are millions of dollars that go through machines in taxis, but it’s certainly not representative of the thousands of hard-working drivers who are doing a great job … Make sure you’re in a branded cab, keep the receipt.”