Taxi payment scam grows: More victims contact police, second fake cab possibly involved | #phishing | #scams


More people have come forward to London police to say they were approached by two men in a taxi-payment fraud scheme that police initially reported had defrauded 20 people of $100,000.

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More people have come forward to London police to say they were approached by two men in a taxi-payment fraud scheme that police initially reported had defrauded 20 people of $100,000.

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London police say there are now more than 35 reports of a fake cabbie-rider duo duping strangers in the London area, up from the initial 20 reports that prompted a police warning Monday.

Officers believe there are still more people who fell victim to the scheme.

“We believe that there are more victims out there and we are appealing to members of the public to contact us if they were a victim of this particular fraud or scam,” Const. Sandasha Bough said Thursday.

Police also said Thursday it appears two bogus cabs may have been operating in the city at the same time.

In each case, a male who appears to be in his late teens, tells a stranger walking by that the driver of the taxi he has taken won’t accept cash because of COVID-19. He asks them to pay the fare using their debit card with a promise to reimburse them with cash, police said. The stranger is given a debit machine to make the payment and is repaid the amount in cash, police said. The driver provides a receipt and a debit card to the stranger.

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The people who provide their cards later realize they have been cheated after discovering money has been removed from their bank account and their card has been swapped for a lookalike, police said.

Giuliana Perri said she and her wife lost more than $3,000 after they agreed to help a man pay his $8 cab fare. The pair said they were leaving the Farm Boy near Masonville Place on the evening of Jan. 6 when he approached them and asked them to pay his fare because the driver wouldn’t take cash. Perri discovered she had been deceived the next day when her debit card was declined.

“I’m shocked more than 35 (reports) now. It’s really sad that it’s come to this,” Perri said Thursday after learning more people have come forward.

“There shouldn’t be people running around London, Ont., scamming people for being nice,” she said.

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London police said Monday the scheme had cost 20 people a total of $100,000, with those defrauded losing between $1,100 and $13,000. An updated estimate has not been provided since additional people have come forward to say they lost money to the pair.

One of the suspects in several frauds involving paying for a taxi fare is a man in his late teens who was wearing a puffy winter jacket, London police say. (London police handout)
One of the suspects in several frauds involving paying for a taxi fare is a man in his late teens who was wearing a puffy winter jacket, London police say. (London police handout)
London police say a vehicle believed to be a 2014 Nissan Altima with a fake taxi sign was used in a scam that already has netted two suspects more than $100,000. Police also have received reports a black Nissan Altima was used in some incidents. (London police handout)
London police say a vehicle believed to be a 2014 Nissan Altima with a fake taxi sign was used in a scam that already has netted two suspects more than $100,000. Police also have received reports a black Nissan Altima was used in some incidents. (London police handout)

Perri said she and her partner are frustrated after they were told by their bank it would take between 10 and 15 days before the fraud department determined whether she’d be reimbursed.

“When we called them and we were distressed, they said potentially, you’re going to get your refund, maybe in 15 business days,” Perri said.

Police said the incidents occurred during several days, but none have taken place since Monday.

Investigators have released surveillance images of the two suspects and their vehicle.

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Police describe one man as between 18 and 20 who was wearing a puffy jacket, Timberland boots, a black hat and a medical mask. The second man, around 40, was wearing black clothing, a black hat and medical mask.

Police said Monday the vehicle used in the scam is believed to be a silver, four-door, 2014 Nissan Altima, with a fake taxi sign on the roof. On Thursday, police said some complainants told investigators the suspects were using a black Nissan Altima.

The additional reports came after police issued a public warning Monday reminding residents to be careful using their debit cards. A similar warning was issued by Toronto police in the fall after dozens of people reported falling for the scam.

Many instances of fraud, however, go unreported, according to a national anti-fraud agency.

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The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates fewer than five per cent of fraud victims report their experience.

As per the agency’s latest available figures, there were nearly 3,000 fraud reports filed to the agency and 1,593 victims in August. Canadians lost more than $14 million to various frauds that same month and more than $144 million between January 2021 and August.

Anyone with information related to the incidents in London is asked to contact police at 519-661-5515, ext. 5257, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

cleon@postmedia.com

twitter.com/CalviatLFPress

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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