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Beware cab scam in Istanbul (& elsewhere?)

Beware cab scam in Istanbul (& elsewhere?)

Old Jul 22nd, 2006, 11:03 PM
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Beware cab scam in Istanbul (& elsewhere?)

Had an unfortunate experience with a cabbie last night in Istanbul. First I've taken over 20 cab rides here in the past 9 days and they've all been execeptionally wonderful and gracious. Just one bad experience in an otherwise beautiful and totally hospitable city.

My friend and I were engrossed in conversation and not paying too much attention. When we dug around to pay him, he handed back the bills saying he couldn't accept it. It was a stange looking bill we didn't recognize and we wondered how we had received it and we dug around our purses for more money. We were rushing and I handed him a 50 and he gave me back a 5 saying that "it's 15 this isn't enough". I thought I had a made a mistake and apologized. This happened AGAIN with another 50 at which point we FINALLY realized he was switching our bills but it was very late and not too many people around. We jumped out of the cab into our hotel and showed the concierge the strange bills we had (said 250,000) -- he said they're some worthless form of curency. He looked totally mortified that this had happened and was saying, "oh, that's very bad" although of course he had no reason to apologize on behalf of another.

I guess just pay attention to this possibility -- it's a little confusing dealing with currency in Turkey since people accept Euros, Lira, and dollars and I thought maybe my friend had given him that unfamiliar looking bill. If I had been aware of this scam, I would have realized what was happening as soon as he gave us back the first strange bill. Instead, I apologized and we ended up handing over 100 Lira for a 15 lira cab ride. Istanbul is gorgeous and the people have been warm and friendly, I'll report back on the great hotels, etc. when I return...
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 03:23 AM
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ira
 
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Thanks for the heads up, F.

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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 09:43 AM
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Thanks for the information as we will be in Turkey in October.

Had a similar thing happen in Bali recently. Handed an internet statement along with the money to the cashier. Cashier did something with the money and then claimed I did not pay. I learned to present the statement and then when paying say the amount that I was giving to the clerk. Lesson learned!

I'm looking forward to reading your report about Turkey.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 10:37 AM
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<This happened AGAIN with another 50 at which point we FINALLY realized he was switching our bills but it was very late and not too many people around.>

So, in reality, you knew this cabbie was robbing you but you just let it happen? I would have gotten out of the cab and gone into the hotel to call the police. You should have at least gotten his license plate number and reported him.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 12:02 PM
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I agree. You're doing a good thing by reporting the possibility of this scam here, but you'd have been doing a much greater service since you knew he was robbing you BEFORE you even left the cab, to have gotten his number and reported him. These scams continue to happen because people let them do it and don't even bother to report them.
 
Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 12:35 PM
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Sorry this happened to you, but thanks for telling us about it. I got scammed by a cabbie in Athens and I know what a crummy feeling that is. Like you, I realized too late that I was scammed and I should have taken the cab # and reported the cabbie to the police. I hope this never happens to you again, but if it does, now you will know what to do. I'm glad this didn't ruin your trip.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 03:02 PM
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Similar thing happened to us in Athens...we paid and the driver handed us back a smaller bill which he said we had given him, so we gave him a larger one..., but we didn't realize that he had switched until we had left the cab and had a chance to look at our money. You better believe that we learned a lesson and always double checked after that.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 06:46 AM
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Thanks for letting us all know. It's so hard to be vigilant every second in a foreign environment.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 07:30 AM
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I was in Istanbul for 2 weeks in May/June. While many Istanbul cabbies are honest, I've had more attempts at cheating here than anywhere, andI travel quite a bit internationally and in the U.S.

Classic scam: you are in the cab when the cabbie wants to take an "alternate route" to avoid traffic, which is often longer and more expensive. Resolution: before getting in the cab, tell him your destination, and confirm about how much it will cost. (We SHOULD have gotten his cab number, but didn't. We will next time anything like this happens.)

You are often going to/from the major tourist sites, so your hotel will be able to give you a good idea before you leave, and for your return trip.

We had one cabbie say that he would take us back to our hotel for 30 Turkish lire -- when the most it ever was from this destination is 13-14. My husband immediately raised his voice, said he was insulted that he thought he would cheat us this way, and basically cleared other tourists away fro mthis cab. He took often without a fare. (This was at Topkapi.)

Also check: that the fare will be in new Turkish lire. A lot of that money changing nonsense happens with the old currency with a lot of zeroes. Confirm that payment will only be made in new lira up front; if he won't take the new lira (which he is supposed to,) get another cab. Of course, the best solution is for the Turkish government to prohibit the old currency, but they have this inefficient system of a slow phase-in. The euro currency situation was **SO** much easier. But the point: confirm the use of the new lira before you ever get in the cab.

I had one cabbie actually pull up short of my hotel, and claim that going by the hotel would be too difficult for traffic (which was nonsense.) Since I began to get cautious about my safety from HIM, I told him that I wasn't happy and he should bring me to the hotel. (The neighborhood itself is very safe - near the Swisshotel.) He continued to argue and refuse, when I noticed that he couldn't have started the meter correctly givenn the fare posted, and knew I should just get away. I told him that I knew what it usually cost to get me to my hotel, handed him that money, and left. I SHOULD have gotten his number, but was too put out in event to see it clearly.

Another rule: every cab has its number marked on the door. Before you get in, noticeably write down the number. This was a trick that our superb and savvy doorman did t the Swisshotel, whenever a guest got in a cab. Swisshotel is trying its best to keep the cabbies honest. They are also good at giving you an idea of the charge should be to your destination. Earlier in the stay, when I ws on my own professional business and stayed at the Hilton ParkSA, there was no doorman to provide this level of service.

(And yes, I know that some cabbies from Kennedy Airport have been caught overcharging foreign tourists, and you have to make sure that cabbies anywhere start the meter from the base rate, etc., but I still maintain that Istanbul cabbies give me the most hassle on a percentage basis. And yes, the point is to either report them or at least embarass them very pubolicly at the cab stand so that othrs are warned, but I know that it is possible to get rattled, especially if oyu are on your own in a new situation.)

Another quick point: this will it does NOT excuse dishonesty, but I know that some in Rome complain that because posted fares have been frozen for so long, that this motivates some cabbies to cheat. It's not like cabbies can make fare adjustments when some of their own costs (e.g. fuel) rise. But it IS still dishonest to cheat.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 07:50 AM
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Message madame X

Old turkish lira has not been accepted since January2006.
New Turkish lira is the only currency in circulation.
Old bills are worthless.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 07:54 AM
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Good to know -- but I know I sitll saw some attempts art using those bills in the bazaar, taxis, etc.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 08:18 AM
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If you are lucky enough to be in the cab with a companion, in the event of a dispute or suspected theft, and if you are in front of your own hotel, leave your partner in the cab to keep the driver on the scene. Go inside and have the doorman or concierge come out with you and handle it. It's amazing how fast someone who speaks the language can rectify a situation like that.

While in St. Petersburg, several times, we took taxis from our ship into town to have dinner. The quoted fares ranged between $12 and $15 depending on the driver.

After dinner, the restaurant doorman hailed a cab from the group that was sitting outside. We always ask for the approximate amount of the fare before getting into any cab, anywhere. The driver quoted us $35.00. We got out telling him that that was way too much and that we would take the metro instead. He said that for $5 he would drive us to the metro, which we knew was only a few blocks away and we had no intention of taking that night anyway.

We got out of the cab and went back and told the doorman. He immediately went over to the driver and told him off in a loud clear manner. He then hailed us another cab and said something to him in Russian - our fare was $12 for that ride, plus a nice tip.

Always seek out 'a higher authority'.

One time in Paris, we had to change hotels during our stay and because we had all of our luggage, we took a cab instead of the metro to our new hotel on St. Louis

It was weekend day and of course the main street, rue St. Louis was jammed packed with cars and people. Our driver saw this in advance, but instead of turning away, he proceeded turn right into it.

When we were totally part of the jam, he _immediately_ left the cab, with the meter ticking of course, and went into a store. We watched him smoking, and laughing inside, thinking that he had two helpless, naive captives trapped inside of his cab.

Since we knew that our hotel was only a block away, and we had already paid for about five minutes of his smoking break, DH went inside of the store, paid him the fare on the meter and off we went carrying our luggage to the hotel.

Normally we would not have done
anything like that, but he could easily have avoided the main drag, especially when he saw the traffic jam far enough in advance, and did or should have known about weekend traffic there. We were very familiar with the area, having driven there before ourselves.

Yes he was probably stuck in the traffic for quite some time, but he hadn't realized that we knew exactly where our hotel was when he lied and told us that it was too far for us to walk with our luggage!!!! (one block)

His tip .... we paid for his meter ticking smoking break.

Nina
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 08:54 AM
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egarding old lira- while some may attempt to pass on old turkish lira- it is still worthless.
No Turk will accept it- you probably see some unknowing tourist take it as change.

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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 10:36 AM
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I should also mention:

Personally, I knew I would only deal with new Turkish lira on my trip.

Another part of guarding yourself is that even if a dishonest cab agrees to take you for an amount quoted in new lira, he might give you the runaround about giving change in old lira. I always made sure I had an assortment of small bills and coins so that I could get the ampount exact, or close to.

But be on guard: I KNOW that I saw one cab with a meter with a readout in the old denomination, i.e. lira hundreds of thousands. I refused that cab. Obviously, he could easily scam someone when he "did the conversion for them." For all I know, the cabbies needed a dual meter during the transition (if I'm giving the guy half a break,) but fro mwhat you told me, this seems like an obvious scam, too.

Yes, I am sure that if the conversion date has passed, the old currency is worthless. However, the people I had talked to, who had regularly been to Istanbul a few times the past year, claimed that the process seemed very drawn out and disorganized. I thought the conversion was still going on -- 'glad I was stubborn about only using the new currency.

I should also mention that I'd go back to Istanbul in a minute - a very vibrant, interesting city. 'Just have to watch those cabs!
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Old Jul 26th, 2006, 07:50 AM
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Update: This is NOT a rare occurance but seems to be quite common in IST cabs.

We couldn't believe this but the next 2 cab rides we took in IST after my original post -- they both tried the same thing -- claimed we gave them the wrong amount and gave us back a 1 Lira bill. (very rare to see these, only the cheating cab drivers seemed to have 1 Lira bills)

Being prepared for this we told them we had given them the right amount and got out of the cab. We always had exact change and had already gathered our belongings so we could get out quickly. Also agreed in advance who would pay -- it's not good to have three friends each insisting to pay for the cab, all with their wallets out, makes it more confusing.

I think we didn't run into this problem at all early on because we were taking short rides and paying with 1 Lira coins. But when we were going from Sultanahmet to Taksim in heavy traffic, fares went up to around 10 Lira, hence we were paying with bills, not coins.

I appreciate the advice of some of you to take down cab numbers, etc. but there are no cab #'s or ID cards displayed inside, and the first cab sped off with lightening speed so we had no time to get a license plate number. We are two very small women and my traveling partner has just been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- I really didn't want to get into a shouting match with some gruff guy who weighed at least 150 lbs more than me. I lost approximately $60 USD but it's really not worth the cost of stressing my friend out by fighting with him and then shouting at her to "get out of the cab, now!" as she was still looking through her purse while I had gathered all my bags ready to get out. My nightmare scenario was that I would watch him speed off with her still in the cab. I did scan around in that instance looking for an ID card but didn't see one.

Anyway, I see your point about reporting the subsequent offending cabs but this would have extended a momentary irritation of 9 seconds into a longer process of finding a policeman, making a report, etc. -- that process would not make me feel "vindicated" but would take up precious time and generate negative energy -- personally it's not worth it to me. I don't like reporting people to the police for such minor offenses, these are working class people trying to overcharge me for a service, not robbing me. The Four Seasons wanted to charge 21 Lira for what looked like a really crappy hamburger on their lunch menu -- we walked away in that instance too.

We got ripped off once, it's really not a big deal unless I allow it to cloud or mediate my experiences of this incredibly vibrant, really wonderful city.
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