More victims of 'despicable' fake taxi scam come forward as officials demand action
TORONTO -- A Toronto city councillor is demanding action as more people come forward as new victims in a “despicable” fake taxi scam that plays on their willingness to help people during a pandemic.
Scarborough Centre Councillor Michael Thompson said it’s important that police take the fraud case seriously — and that it’s time for city inspectors to crack down as well.
“Quite frankly, the crime is despicable and if people are trying to enrich themselves at the expense of others that’s despicable as well. It’s so regrettable on all fronts, quite frankly,” Thompson told CTV News Toronto in an interview.
He said he asked police about how widespread the fraud is, and was told it’s possible that the scammers are operating in Peel Region and in Durham Region as well.
“I believe it’s happening throughout the GTA,” Thompson said.
Thompson was reacting to news that a Toronto nurse had been taken advantage of on Saturday as she was approached by a young man at a parking lot at Eglinton and Warden who said he needed help paying for a taxi because the taxi wouldn’t take cash during the pandemic.
Susan Palmer said she paid with her debit card, and got back a receipt and what she thought was her card. In fact, it was another card, and the thieves made off with $3,700 because after they recorded her pin number.
Small businessperson Louise Peral said a similar thing happened to her at a parking lot at the Golden Mile.
She gave the fake taxi her debit card, and got a receipt for $19.50, and it was a similar story: by the time she realized she no longer had her card, $1,000 was missing from her bank account.
“The bank checked and said this was a card that was called in as a fraud as well. They’re recycling everybody’s card to the next person,” Peral said.
“I was upset, I was in tears, I work really hard for my money,” she said.
The car resembles a Beck Taxi, but has a number on it that isn’t registered, said operations manager Kristine Hubbard.
The company has been on the receiving end of complaints even though it’s not connected. She said any real taxi would take cash.
“It's a pandemic. Taking advantage of people’s goodwill is just so awful,” she said.
Toronto Police warned about the scam back in February. City inspectors told CTV News Toronto that “operating a taxicab without a licence is a violation of the City’s Vehicle-for-Hire bylaw.”
Peral said she hopes her bank will cover the losses. But the sting of being defrauded will stay with her for a long time, she said.
“I’m not going to have any trust,” she said. “Someone who is really stuck, I’ll turn my back on them. That is unfortunate."