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October 20, 2011

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Cabbies in sleight of hand card scam

SLEIGHT of hand is being employed by unscrupulous cabbies to steal prepaid transport cards from passengers, taxi watchdogs warned yesterday.

In the con, when a passenger gives the driver their card - which may be charged up with hundreds of yuan - the cabbie swaps it for an identical card with no credit on it.

The Traffic Law Enforcement Team told Shanghai Daily that it has received 408 reports of this since March.

Investigations found most culprits were drivers of "cloned taxis" - unlicensed vehicles modified to look like taxis, as most of the receipts issued could not be linked to a cab.

To add insult to injury, having made the swap, some brazen cabbies claim their card-reading equipment is not working and get the customers to settle with cash.

"Many passengers suffered double-hit losses - losing their cards while paying fares in cash," said Chen Zhaohui, an official with the Traffic Law Enforcement Team.

"Our investigations showed that in most cases the taxis were clones. Often these use invalidated invoices," he added.

"Some cloned taxi drivers steal blank receipts from official taxis to and then feed these into their fake fare meters," said Chen.

The watchdog suggested passengers personalize their cards and keep a close eye on cabbies.

"Riders should mark their transport cards with personalized symbols or use cards with designs to prevent the scam," Chen said.

A female victim reported the theft of her card, with 900 yuan of credit, on Monday.

She handed it over while speaking on her cellphone. She also removed the card case as the driver claimed his meter had difficulty reading it with a cover on.

The woman later discovered she had been given a card that was identical to hers, except, of course, that it had no credit.

Another victim reported the same con this week. She said the driver deliberately dropped her card on the floor to give him an opportunity to make the switch.

Local taxi firm Blue Alliance said it receives similar complaints almost every day, but most involve cloned vehicles.

Any official cabbies found to have swapped transport cards would lose their business license, said Chen.


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