Taxi Scammer Was Charging Over $400 for Rides from New York JFK to Downtown. Here’s How You Can Avoid Getting Taken By Similar Scams Anywhere in the World.

A man has been arrested for running an airport taxi scam at New York JFK. He would approach passengers, tell them that the Airtran wasn’t running, but that he’d drive them into the City.

He also claimed to be a Super Shuttle driver and had Super Shuttle logo items in his vehicle, and a professionally printed rate list.

He charged over $400 for the trip and insisted that price didn’t include the tip.

Road Warrior Voices offers tips on how to know whether a taxi or similar in New York is legit. Frankly I don’t like advice such as to wait in an official taxi queue.

I really think the best approach is much simpler.

  1. Know approximately what a ride should cost.
  2. Get your luggage out of the vehicle before raising any question about the price you’re being asked to pay.
  3. Enlist the help of your hotel. They know what a ride should cost, too. And you’re their guest and more important to them than the driver.
  4. If all else fails, call the police. (This works in most destinations, except where the police are paid off, though calling any given cop it’s likely they aren’t paid off by that particular driver or their cartel.)

In other words, know if you’re being ripped off and don’t back down. Enlist the help of those around you. When it’s obvious to everyone the driver is running a scam, there’s more risk to the driver than to you. But minimize the risk by taking control of your possessions before escalating the situation.

Or just use Uber or similar app-based service. The pricing is a fixed formula, you get a map of your route, and pay by credit card. It’s easy to handle disputes by email and there’s evidence even of the route you were driven — something that even licensed cabs can’t offer.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Know approximately what a ride should cost” — yes, but you need to make sure your sources are reliable. I was once kicked out of a cab in Cairo because I was given outdated information about what the cost should be, and the driver was genuinely insulted by my low price expectation.

  2. I would guess Foreign Tourists. Wouldn’t know the exact costs and Wouldn’t be willing to argue or raise a complaint.

  3. Two things I have learned in my travels around the world. First, never, ever accept a taxi ride from anyone who approaches you at an airport. Second, when getting a taxi, always, always settle on the price BEFORE you start the trip. I record the conversation using an audio recorder app on my iPhone.

  4. I totally agree with your advice, the most important point being to get your bags unloaded before you raise questions about the price. We have friends who didn’t follow that simple rule and ended up losing their suitcases when the cab drove off with them in Manila. (They filed a police report for the insurance claim but never saw them again.). But I would also add that outside North America and Europe, you can’t always count on hotel staff to be much help. In Vietnam and Indonesia, for example, we have experienced a reluctance on the part of the bellman/front doorstaff of a couple of different 5 star hotels (Sheraton, Intercontinental) over the last few years to get involved in exactly this situation. Cultural conflict avoidance, we assumed. Invoking the police worked, though.

  5. These guys can be pushy and then turn downright aggressive and I don’t blame anyone new to NYC for being intimidated into paying them a ton. Simple rule: never ever ever accept ride offers at the arrivals area. If you can’t wait for a yellow cab or an über, you need to arrange transpo ahead of time. The port authority does nothing about this problem besides post inconspicuous signs near the baggage carousels. These crooks were plying their trade 35 years ago when my parents lived in the city and they’ll be doing it still 35 years from now.

  6. In every city around the world, if I need to take a taxi, which is almost always, I would ask for the “official” metered taxi line or the next best thing at the information desk inside the terminal or if I am outside, anyone that seems “official” (a cop, a ground employee, etc).

    Rule of thumb for NYC where I live: avoid “gypsy” cabs or anyone offering you a ‘cheap’ ride because they’ll take you for one 🙂

  7. When I travel anywhere in the world, I try to take public transportation, especially if there is a subway. Hong Kong, Singapore, Portland OR, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, DC, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, Moscow, San Francisco, Atlanta are just a few that come to mind.

  8. On multiple occasions I was approached by illegal ride services while on line at JFK. It was amazing that this was done within sight and hearing of the official taxi dispatcher. When one illegal got too nasty with me I asked the dispatcher to get involved and enforce the law, he refused. I can only wonder how much he was getting paid for ignoring illsgal activity.
    Follow up with Airport police and the Taxi and Limousine Commision went nowhere, tourist beware.

  9. The guy pulling this scam was pretty blatant in his attempts to mislead foreign tourists.

    This post is similarly blatant in its attempts to mislead readers.

    One might assume from the use of the phrase “Taxi scammer” in the headline and the image of yellow cabs used to illustrate the story that this somehow involved a licensed cab driver. It does not.

    The one piece of advice that is identified as suspect (waiting in an official taxi line) would in fact have prevented this scam 100% of the times it occurred.

    Finally, readers are advised to ride Uber because it offers a “fixed formula”. In fact, Uber, offers a variable formula — you cannot know how your fare will be calculated until just before you take the ride. Normal cab fares in New York do follow a fixed formula, which is always predictable. Both Uber and and regular city cabs will produce variable prices depending on traffic, route taken, honesty of the driver, etc.

    However, cabs from JFK offer a fixed PRICE of $55 (plus tip and tolls). This method, or pre-arranging a ride with one of the many other car services available, is the only way to have a fixed-price ride from JFK into town.

  10. Hey — just checked and Uber is, in fact, offering fixed rate rides between JFK and “Manhattan” (presumably, anywhere in the borough) for rates competitive with private cabs at the UberX level, so for those rides you can use them as a standard car service.

  11. Nope, Manhattan does not mean Manhattan. When I type in my Manhattan address or zip code I get a different rate.

  12. Larry,

    Uber also has a convenient fare estimate feature which I’ve found has been generally quite accurate. I *think* it takes into consideration traffic but don’t quote me. Anyways, the Van Wyck is always kind of a wild card.

    And yes, fixed price for yellow cabs only counts for trips to Manhattan. Many, many new hotels popular with foreign tourists are popping up in LIC — which can be upwards of near $100 if traffic is heavy.

  13. I actually run a company that puts together arrival kits to avoid these problems, complete with train tickets and taxi advice (like what it should cost to get into town.

    Offered for New York and several cities in Europe – Check it out! –

    Here’s also a database of transit options for over 100 airports, hope it’s helpful!

  14. @dwonderment,

    they sure can. for LGA my advice would be request the pickup on the arrivals level, it’s much less chaotic, especially if you’re flying DL.

  15. Had an issue in Athens late at night. Enlisted the hotel manager who spoke to him at length and saw him off. He left quite grumpy. hope he is still that way.

  16. I am not one to write reviews about anything, but felt I needed to participate to help the safety of my peers. I was approached atJFK airport and was asked if I needed A ride into Manhattan. I said yes I use Uber often in my hometown of Seattle. The man in the car was clearly not right. And his wife sat in the front car. Without making a long scary story too much to read, please please please do not take anything other then a yellow cab from any airport.

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