According to the New York Daily News, a city investigation in 2010 revealed that roughly 36,000 NYC taxi drivers overcharged passengers a whopping $8.3 million on 1.8 million trips, using a scam as simple as pressing a button. The illegal income came during a 26-month period reviewed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission using new electronic trip data from GPS tracking system technology – which taxi drivers fiercely resisted.
The investigation found that 35, 558 drivers – 75% of the city’s 47,000 licensed medallion cabbies – clipped at least one passenger. It seems scamming passengers is a part of the cabbie culture. No wonder the taxi drivers were fighting against the installation of the mandatory GPS tracking devices. One taxi driver was making $40,000 extra a year with this scam. Without the GPS tracking system, the scam would never have been uncovered.
Basically this is how the scam works. The taxi meters come with roughly 5-6 buttons. Each button represents a different location in the NYC metropolitan area. One button, for example, represents the Manhattan City area, one button for Newark/New Jersey, one for Westchester, etc.
Each button represents a different location which determines the base fare the customer will be charged. The scam occurs when the driver selects the wrong destination on the meter, a further away, more expensive destination. If every time someone gets into a cab, the driver presses the button for the most expensive destination, he could be making hundreds of dollars a day ‘extra’.
Say, for example, you get into a cab at La Guardia Airport and you live in Manhattan, but the driver selects the base fare as Newark, New Jersey. He just stole money from you and many people probably wouldn’t even notice. Until recently, taxi drivers were able to get away with this. Until now, until the Taxi and Limo Commission started using a GPS tracking system to bust drivers.
It’s unfortunate that the taxi meter system seems so easy to manipulate.