NYC Grabs Cabbies' GPS Data, Busts Open $8M Taxi Scam

In New York City, a cab driver can be your best friend, regaling you
with tales about the Big Apple of yore, and blasting Boston for an epic
sing-along. He or she can also be your worst enemy by innocently
proclaiming the credit card machine is "broken" after the ride has
ended, forcing you to trek to an ATM, and thus allowing him to get off
tax-free. Apparently, however, the truly seedy side of New York cabbies
has been revealed by GPS, and amounts to a scam of nearly $8.3 million.
Apparently, drivers have been flipping the switch that denotes the
type of ride a passengers is taking in order to fraudulently change
the $0.40 city rate to the $0.80 charged to passengers traveling in
Westchester and Nassau counties. After one rider complained, a
commission was established, and began collecting GPS data from cabs in
order to review trip locations and rates throughout the city. The
commission's findings? A whopping 1.8 million improper fares charged
throughout the city, or the biggest fraud in taxi history.
Now, before you get your collective commuter panties in a bunch, there
is a little bit of a silver lining here. The commission had to sort
through 360 million trips to get its data, meaning the overall fraud
numbers are a paltry percentage. In total, 36,000 drivers activated the
lucrative rate change at least once, but they weren't necessarily all
purposefully deceitful. As cabbie Rana Singh told the New York Times,
"You're driving, your fingers are small, the buttons are tiny."
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers
Alliance, also told the times that she believes it's a "systematic
failure on the part of the meters and technology." That's perhaps true,
for those among the 36,000 that messed up once or twice. However, the
commission discovered that over 3,000 drivers implemented the hike more
than 100 times. One driver was found doing it to 574 passengers in just a single month.
Agency officials are reportedly ordering cab manufacturers to create a
notification system for when the rate goes into effect. In the meantime, just like anything in New York City,
two lessons can be learned here: a couple bad apples can ruin it for the rest of us; and always know how
much something costs (and, then, what you are actually paying
for it). [From: New York Times]

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