Taxi debit card scam strikes again

A Toronto man says a tax driver swapped his debit card for someone else's and took over his bank account. It's a scam police say has bilked dozens of riders across the city.

Police say small group of fraudsters are driving around the city in cabs, taking over customers' bank accounts

Bran Ramsey says he was the victim of debit fraud at the hand of a Toronto taxi driver on Friday night. (CBC )

Bran Ramsey says he's been feeling "pro-Uber" since he fell victim to a Toronto taxi debit scam on Friday night.

After a night out with friends, the Toronto man flagged a cab at King Street West and Spadina Avenue to his destination in the Junction. It seemed totally normal, he told CBC News. 

"The cab ride wasn't memorable. I just took a cab, paid with debit and went home," Ramsey said. "It was just the next morning I woke up and saw that I had a different debit card, and then tried to log into my online banking and I couldn't."

The driver had apparently swapped his green TD Bank card with a similar one that didn't belong to Ramsey.

"I wasn't even charged for [the cab ride]," he said.  "I don't think the debit machine he used was a real debit machine. So there's no paper trail of me ever being there."

It's a scam Toronto police have seen before, but they believe it's being perpetrated by only a "small number" of drivers. 

"People have been drinking so they take a cab and they've got their friends with them, they hand the cards to the suspect," Const. Michael Kiproff said.  

"They do their thing and when they're handed a card back, they just assume it's their card and put it in their pocket and leave."

Dozens of victims

In January, police issued a warning about this type of scam, which they say targeted dozens of victims over a period of just a few weeks. 

At the time, Det. Chris Beattie, the lead investigator in the case, said it is not clear whether those involved are legitimate taxi drivers with major cab companies or just fraudsters pretending to be cabbies.

But, he added, it's best to beware of cabs that don't have a familiar name or logo. Ramsey can't remember for sure what kind of taxi he hailed the night of the theft. 

Police got wind of the fraud in mid-December when a TD Bank fraud investigator reported a pattern of 12 incidents in which cab riders saw more than $55,000 taken from their accounts.  
Toronto police say dozens of people have been victimized by the taxi debit scam. (CBC)

A similar scam led to charges in Montreal last year. One victim, Julie Piesina told CBC News how hundreds of dollars disappeared from her account after she paid for a cab with her bank card. 

And in the summer of 2014, Peel Regional Police warned of a similar scam happening with both limousines and taxis out of Pearson International Airport.

In Ramsey's case, the person who stole his card made 12 withdrawals from his account, but also deposited $5,000 in cheques. About $3,000 of those fraudulent funds are still sitting in his account while the bank investigates. The stolen card is now frozen.

"I feel pro-Uber and I hate to say it, but I mean you don't even pay when you're in the car," Ramsey said. "I don't feel like I'll take many taxis."

With files from Makda Ghebreslassie, Ali Chiasson and Mike Crawley