Shanghai taxi drivers are now increasingly pulling some magician stunts by swapping out your fully charged jiaotong ka (public transportation card) with an empty one using sleight-of-hand.
We’ve heard this one floating around for a while, but apparently it’s become more widespread. And as Shanghai’s population grows ever-larger, it can’t hurt to remind you to take care!
The scam is pretty straightforward, and like most scams and tricks, relies on the customer not really paying attention. When the customer hands their card to the driver to pay, the driver will either use some tricky sleight-of-hand, up the sleeve type moves if he’s suave, or just drop the card “accidentally” and swap it out when he bends over to get it. Either way, the card he returns is not the original card with all your money on it, but rather an empty one.
The ballsy drivers apparently even go so far as to claim the card reader is having problems and demand cash payment for the double-whammy.
Investigations found most culprits were drivers of “cloned taxis” – unlicensed vehicles modified to look like taxis, as most of the receipts issued could not be linked to a cab.
Apart from staying vigilant, the best way to avoid this scam is to make sure the taxi you’re riding in is legit:
1. Make sure that the cab has a plastic guard around the driver’s seat with the company information visible.
2. Make sure the driver’s information is visible in front of the passenger seat.
3. Make sure that the driver in the picture is the same person as the one driving your cab.
4. NEVER take rides with cab drivers that are trying to solicit you outside of their cab (street side, airport, etc.)
The second best way to protect your hard earned RMB is to personalize your transportation card with some symbols, Hello Kitty stickers, or put it in a plastic case and check it after the driver returns it.
Previous taxi-scam coverage on Shanghaiist:
Taxi drivers may be using black market devices to make the meter tick faster or increase the distance traveled.
Scam Alert: Beware the red cabs of infinite sorrow