Toronto

'I was appalled': More than $7K stolen from passengers' bank accounts in taxi debit fraud

Two men have told CBC Toronto they've had a combined total of $7,600 stolen in a debit card scam run by local taxi drivers.

'I realized that this was clearly a situation where my card had been swapped,' victim says

Giordano Manuel says $3,500 was stolen from his bank account in an alleged taxi debit card scam. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Two men have told CBC Toronto they've had a combined total of $7,600 stolen in a debit card scam run by local taxi drivers.

They say the scammers swap the passenger's debit card with a similar-looking one, then withdraw cash and purchase items with the stolen card.

Ryan O'Connor says he usually uses ride sharing services in the city but was forced to hail a cab to take him home in October because his phone had died.

"The next day I tried to buy a coffee ... and I tried to enter my PIN number and it didn't work. I tried three times, it still didn't work," O'Connor told CBC Toronto.

"I was frustrated. I looked at the card and it was my bank's card, looked the same as mine but I looked at the back and it was someone else's card."

Fraudster went on shopping spree

O'Connor said he checked into his online bank statement and realized there was $4,100 in transactions that he didn't make.

Among the transactions were approximately six for $100 each at a Walmart in Scarborough, four consecutive transactions at the Metro on Front Street, and $17.02 for gas at an Esso service station.

"I was appalled. Then I put two and two together and I realized that this was clearly a situation where my card had been swapped," O'Connor said.

He said he learned, after reporting the fraud to his bank, that the card he had in his possession had been reported stolen the day before.

The bank also told him that he might not be able to get his money back for a couple of weeks.

Rrayn O’Connor says $4,100 was removed from his account by a taxi driver who switched his debit card. (CBC)

"My biggest concern when I thought about this afterwards was not about me, I can handle it," he said. 

"I'm more concerned about this being a broader scam and that's what it appears to be certainly having read about it online," O'Connor said.

"What about the elderly woman on a fixed income who has to take a taxi because she doesn't know about ride share? If that happened to her and she wasn't able to get that money back for weeks that would be a problem."

CBC Toronto spoke with an investigator in the Toronto Police financial crimes unit who wanted to assure the public they do investigate these crimes. 

However, police told CBC News it's difficult to connect the dots especially if there are no cameras at the ATM where these alleged criminals withdraw money.

'Oh, don't worry, you could use debit,' cabbie said

Giordano Manuel said he fell victim to the scam twice, and the fraudsters took $3,500 out of his account.

"The first time he told me he had no change. The second guy told me, 'Oh, don't worry, you could use debit,' because I was trying to leave him a big tip and he said he didn't want a tip he just wanted me to pay debit," Manuel told CBC Toronto.

"The second time it happened, I was very, very suspicious about it, because why wouldn't you not want a $12 tip on a $7 or $8 ride?"

Giordano Manuel says he fell victim to the scam twice. (CBC)

Manuel says after the taxi driver swaps the card, the debit machine being used is programmed to approve the transaction and save the PIN.

"The first time it happened, I had no idea what happened but I woke up in the morning and saw a $4,000 deposit in my account, because he deposited cheques. I called the bank and they told me where it happened and I noticed my debit card was missing and that I had somebody else's debit card," Manuel said.

"I think it is ridiculous because of how much the cab industry is struggling right now and how they are against Uber, but then this would never happen with Uber and it's always happening with cabs," he said.

"They can't seem to fix it and they're wondering why their business is struggling?"

Like Manuel, O'Connor said cabs companies need to step up their game.

"The taxi industry needs to do a better job of policing their vehicles, do a better job of screening their drivers, and a better job of ensuring the safety of the travelling public," he said.

About the Author

Desmond Brown

Journalist

Desmond Brown is a senior online reporter with CBC News. Email: desmond.brown@cbc.ca

With files from Chris Glover

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