Toronto police have arrested a 14-year-old boy in a recent investigation into a taxi scam after a TikToker warned local residents about the scam that nearly cost them their debit card on Sunday night.
On Monday, Toronto Police received a call after someone saw a taxi involved in a similar scam in the Cedarbrae Mall parking lot.
Police say they arrested the 14-year-old boy and charged him with possession of property obtained through crimes worth over $5,000.
Warning residents and sharing her story on TikTok, Toronto model Saja Kilani claimed that a taxi scam involving a teenager and a driver attempted to steal bank cards from customers and passers-by.
Kilani says she was walking around the Bay and Yorkville area after doing some shopping when a teenager stopped her and asked if she could cover his cab ride as they only accepted cards and he only had cash.
The boy showed her the cash and said he would pay her if she helped him. Not yet skeptical, Saja decided to help him.
“You know, I figured if I was in a situation like this, I would want someone to help me too, so I decided to help and went to the parked taxi,” says Saja. “I asked the driver if he just drove that boy and he said yes. So I gave him my card.”
Saja knew something was wrong when she handed the driver her debit card, she explains.
“I gave the driver my debit card and the teenager suddenly started talking to me very quickly, trying to get my attention. He even said he’d pay me extra money if I wanted to tip the driver, and I could see he was fidgeting a bit,” she said.
Kilani then noticed out of the corner of his eye that the taxi driver secretly slipped off her card while he was fixing the machine. Then he put her card in the machine and handed it back to her.
However, after she paid and gave the driver back the machine with her card, the driver gave her back – but the card didn’t have her name on it.
Kilani knew it was someone else’s card.
“That’s when she found out it was a scam,” Kilani said.
She immediately opened the front door of the taxi, leaned in and told the driver it wasn’t her card.
“I said to him, ‘I can see the card between your legs. Give it to me’. And his first reaction was to laugh and say, ‘Oh, did you see that? It was just a prank,'” says Kilani .
I was really shocked by his reaction – he just played it like it was something cool. And what’s absurd to me is that he kept trying to defend himself like he wasn’t stealing. If I hadn’t asked for my card he could have just walked away.Saya Kilani
Afterwards, Kilani says she pulled out her phone to film him.
“As soon as I started pulling out my phone he put his mask on and his son or whoever it was put his mask on too.”
As soon as she started videotaping him, he started driving, but Kilani managed to get details of his car and license plate on video.
Kilani’s video quickly went viral over the weekend, garnering over a million views and hundreds of likes.
She replaced her card online and then filed a police report with the details, which she was able to video capture. Because her story was so well received, she was able to speed up the process of filing a police report.
What do these “taxi scams” look like?
The taxi scams are exactly as Saja experienced on Sunday.
Toronto Police say the scam involves a vehicle (such as a taxi) parked in a busy area in the middle of the day. One suspect posed as the driver and the other as a customer. The customer approaches the unsuspecting victim after a heated argument and asks them to pay with their debit card as the driver refuses to accept cash due to COVID-19.
After the victim hands the driver their debit card, the customer distracts the victim and the debit card is exchanged for another card.
The point-of-sale terminal records the victim’s card details and PIN number, which are then used by the scammers to conduct fraudulent transactions using the victim’s card.
How can people protect themselves?
Toronto Police Department is asking people to be vigilant when using public transportation that involves debit or credit card transactions.
People should be careful when all taxis claim they do not accept cash as all licensed taxi companies accept cash as payment.
Residents are also strongly advised not to leave their debit or credit cards unattended in any point of sale terminal, to cover their fingers when entering their PIN numbers, and to check their cards after each transaction to ensure it is their card. Customers should also be careful to take the machine from the driver when paying instead of handing in the card.
Finally, when using their services, people should know the taxi numbers, company names and be aware of the driver’s ID card which is prominently displayed to the customer at the back of the taxi.
Toronto scams on the rise
Toronto is witnessing many scams that have been increasing lately.
Recently, a CTV News Story warned small business owners and workers about a new scam in the greater Toronto area targeting in-store debit and credit payment terminals. Scammers have stolen payment machines and then used them to return funds to stolen credit cards.
The scammers then go to the ATMs and withdraw money from the credit cards. Police are calling these thefts part of a “refund scam.”
Hundreds of charges have recently been filed Toronto moving scam where movers would pick up someone’s belongings for a really low price and let customers sign contracts with no grand total. The movers then held the customers’ belongings until a higher amount was paid – which was usually thousands of dollars more than the originally quoted price.
Anyone with information or who believes they have been the victim of a taxi scam is urged to contact the police at 416-808-4300, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477) or at www.222tips.com.