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The advice is given many times to not get into "illegal taxis", because they will scam you. My question is: what are the possible ways of scam, if you agree on the price and destination in advance (e.g. by showing it on a map)?

Well, I can imagine that taxi driver at the end says a higher price then agreed, but then what happens if you just give him the previously agreed price and walk away? In the answers of another related question it was mentioned that the taxi driver could deliberately "misunderstand" the location, but that would be covered by showing the map part.

For the sake of this question, let's consider only countries, where being kidnapped/robbed/killed by the taxi driver and such extreme outcomes are extremely rare. Say, Europe, US, and other countries considered "safe". (In other words, let's suppose you don't have to consider the risk that "the taxi driver will kidnap you".)

As answers I'm either expecting any theoretical possibility where you could be scammed, or even better concrete known instances of such scams (i.e. the tourist had to pay more, in spite of doing the above due diligence).

One particular example: I heard once (but not sure if it is true or not, since I can't find anything on Google about it), that a possible scam is agreeing on say "30 dollars" in advance. Then, at the end of the ride, it turns out that the taxist did not think about "US dollars", but "some other kind of dollars" (which of course are much more valuable then "US dollars"), and maybe he has even an accomplice to validate that ("Yes, of course, in this country we always refer to XXX dollars, not US dollars.") But as I said, I can't find anything about this, so maybe it does not exist at all.

Backstory: I was in a Balkan country, waiting for the bus to the airport, together with two locals (or at least they were from some other Balkan countries). A taxi rolled up, and offered to take the three of us to the airport for an extremely low price (basically what the bus ticket per person would have cost). I double checked the price I would have to pay with the taxi driver, before getting in, but was still expecting some bad surprise when we arrived. In the end, everything went fine though, he just asked for the price we had agreed on (and besides that I willingly gave him a tip), but at this point I'm wondering what was in it for him? (The total the three of us payed was less than half of the regular fare it would have cost to get to the airport.) Even though I had luck this time, I still think it was foolish from me to just get into the cab, and I would like to know what else could have gone wrong. (Btw.: I used the term "illegal taxi" at the beginning, this one seemed pretty legal though - had the sign at the top, taximeter, etc.)

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    It is rather likely he already had a trip booked from the airport home or was counting on getting one, which would pay for both directions, so everything you paid would be extra. – Willeke Apr 14 at 16:33
  • @Willeke Well yeah, I thought of that but... "anything would be extra" -- true, but still much less than charging the "normal fee", so he would maybe even lose money due to spending petrol, etc. (Or if someone orders a taxi to take him from the airport, does he pay for both ways?) – Attilio Apr 14 at 16:42
  • When you order a taxi for an out of town trip, either coming or going, you mostly pay for both directions. And if the taxi does have a license to work from said airport he might not get the extra money but still make more with filling his car for a low fare than going empty or hanging around in the hope to get a ride to the airport. – Willeke Apr 14 at 16:46
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    In many places, taxis licensed to pick up at the airport can’t pick up downtown and vice versa (because they’re licensed in a given town and the airport is in a different town). So an airport-licensed taxi would have every incentive to take a customer in town even for a very low cost, the alternative being to drive back empty. Don’t know if that was the case in your situation. – jcaron Apr 14 at 22:18
  • At least at Amsterdam, the only real difference between "official" and "unofficial" taxis at the airport is that the "official" ones pay the airport a fee for using the official taxi stands, where the "unofficial" ones don't. The airport in return gives them free advertising by suggesting the "unofficial" ones are scammers. While some may be, many are just taxis that just brought someone to the airport and hoping to not have to drive back empty. – jwenting Apr 15 at 4:14
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In general, the added safety in licensed taxis etc comes from: i) the reduced pool of vehicles and ii) the added number of people in the loop (dispatchers, owners, inspectors) making it easier to find a rogue one. It's certainly not the case that all drivers operating off the books are innately evil, or operating with a goal other than making a profit on driving you somewhere. It's also not the case that all licensed vehicles are driven by angels.

Having said all that, for the type of situation you describe, a plausible negative situation is the driver stopping half way through the trip into town to renegotiate the price. In general the passenger has more negotiating power at each end of a journey (you're either in a place you know or at your final destination) while the driver's power is maximised in between.

  • Thanks @origimbo, I didn't think of the possibility of driver stopping halfway through. Is it something that is common scam in some places or is it just a theoretical possibility? – Attilio Apr 15 at 10:15
  • @Attilio I've heard it alleged of illicit cabs in various places (often at rail stations with bad public transport otherwise) , but I haven't heard of any well documented cases. – origimbo Apr 15 at 10:30

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