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Police in Brussels warn of fake taxi drivers

A taxi rank in Brussels. Credit: Brussels Mobility

Police in Brussels have warned the public of one or several fake taxi drivers operating in the city, defrauding customers through the use of a false Bancontact payment terminal. Taxi users are warned to be vigilant.

According to La Dernière Heure, at least four people have fallen victim already to the scam, having been robbed of between €600 and €4,500. The latter passenger has already been reimbursed by their bank.

The method is the same in each case: the passenger is alone in the taxi and asks to pay by debit card. Then the driver produces the mobile payment terminal, which is, in fact, a fake, which registers the code of the card. The payment cannot be concluded, and the driver asks for cash. There then follows an argument, during which the driver exchanges the card for one stolen earlier. The unsuspecting passenger then makes it home, only to find later that their account has been plundered by withdrawals made at a number of different banks.

Police say the technique has been known to them since 2017, however, tracking the scammers is made difficult by the fact that the taxi appears to be fake. In normal circumstances, it would be a matter of routine to trace a genuine taxi that was at say the Gare du Midi at a particular time. But a fake taxi that picks up a passenger away from an official taxi-rank is almost impossible to trace – especially when the passenger failed to note the car’s number plate.

Apart from the four latest victims, police say they have knowledge of at least six other cases of fraud using similar means. And they called on the public to exercise care when using a taxi. Genuine Brussels taxis all have the same yellow-check livery, a document with the driver’s photo and licence number, and use official taxi ranks at stations and other popular pick-up places (photo).

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times