The review of the tracking data showed that nearly 36,000 taxi drivers, which make up about 75% of the entire NYC taxi force, had overcharged its customers by $8.3 million in the 26-month period that they were being tracked.
The overcharging scam didn’t involve any math or tip trickery, but was instead as simple as pressing a button at the beginning of the trip. All the cab driver had to do to rip off a customer was to manually select a higher fare rate than what should have been charged.
For example, you might be driven a few blocks, which shouldn’t be very expensive. But, the cabbie would charge you a higher out-of-town fare and make a few extra dollars off you in that short trip. Repeat that about a thousand times by a thousand cab drivers, and scam money quickly starts to pile up.
“It has probably happened to me,” said rider Michel Panzeri of Battery Park. “And maybe I even tipped the guy, too.”
No wonder the taxi drivers were fighting against the installation of the mandatory GPS tracking devices. One taxi driver was making as much as $40,000 extra a year with this scam. Without the GPS tracking system, the scam would never have been discovered.
So what can be done to combat this higher rate fare scam? The city can’t just fire all 36,000 cabbies.
Instead, officials hope to implant a quick fix in the coming few weeks that would alert passengers if they are being charged the higher fare rate. This would be done by using an alert on the backseat monitor when a cabbie activates the out-of-town rate.
So the next time you get into a cab, no matter how far you are going, make sure to take a quick glance at the monitor for anything that might mention an out-of-town fare rate, or any indication that you are being charged an extra fee. It might just help end this multi-million dollar scam.