Waterloo taxi company concerned for industry's reputation as police warn of new scam

Police in Waterloo are warning of a taxi scam that's resulted in four people having their debit cards stolen, and money taken from their bank accounts. (CBC - image credit)

The vice-president of Waterloo Taxi says he's concerned an elaborate new scam will harm the reputation of his company and the taxi industry in general.

"It's very upsetting when someone's using your industry's reputation as a cover to commit fraud against the public," Robert Heinbecker, vice-president of Waterloo Taxi, told CBC News in an interview.

His comments come after the Waterloo Regional Police Service put out a warning about a taxi scam that's reportedly resulted in four people having their debit cards, and funds from their bank accounts, stolen.

In a media release issued Thursday, police said the incidents occurred between May 28 and June 4 in the area of Ezra Street and Clayfield Avenue in Waterloo.

In one case, police said a victim was approached by a male passenger in a vehicle that appeared to be a taxi. The passenger said the taxi driver wouldn't accept cash payment and offered to reimburse the victim if the victim agreed to pay the fare with their debit card.

The victim then inserted their card into a point-of-sale machine and entered their pin to complete the transaction.

The debit card was then returned to the victim. However, later, the victim realized the card returned wasn't theirs and a large amount of money had been withdrawn from their bank account.

All taxis in region take cash

Heinbecker says "all the taxis in our region take cash."

"Our cars are all clearly marked with our top signs and our decals, so you'll know which company that you're dealing with," he added.

Heinbecker said drivers who come across a fraudulent taxi in the city will report it to authorities.

"We all know each other's vehicles out here on the road," he said. "There are some companies that come from outside the region the odd time for various reasons, such as Guelph or Stratford."

But, he said, if people see a taxi that's "really nondescript, it has no real identifying marks on it, no logos, no company names" then it should be reported.

"Most of our cars have cameras in them so we can get these other cars recorded and on video so that the authorities can track them down," Heinbecker said.

Police are asking anyone who has been a victim of the taxi scam, or has any information about the incidents, to call them or Crime Stoppers.

Police offered some tips to help people avoid becoming victims of the taxi scam, or similar scams:

  • Do not leave your debit or credit card unattended in a point-of-sale terminal.

  • Be aware of taxi numbers and company names when using their services.

  • If there is an error code or the debit machine is not functioning, always remove your debit card before returning the machine for assistance.

  • Do not make payments for an unknown person using your personal card in exchange for cash.

  • Inspect your card after each transaction and ensure it is your card.

  • Shield the keypad when entering your PIN.

  • Use contactless payment options, such as tap to pay, whenever possible, as they don't require a PIN.