Book, Cancel, Don’t pay: Here’s how Hyderabad cab drivers are being duped by fraudsters

Several drivers in the city have fallen victim to a new scam that has left them out of pocket

By Nikisha Uddagiri  Published on  4 April 2023 10:43 AM GMT
Taxi drivers

Hyderabad: Several drivers in the city have fallen victim to a new scam that has left them out of pocket. The scam works by fraudsters posing as customers who book a ride with a driver and then cancel it after the driver drops them at the location. By the time the driver realises they have been scammed, the fraudsters have already cancelled the booking and turned off their phones.

Abdul Rawoof, an Ola driver in the city, recently encountered the scam while on the job. It all started when he received a ride request from a customer who claimed that his pregnant wife was in Owaisi Hospital and needed to get to Shamshabad airport to pay a bill.

“He told me her name was Priyanka Sharma and asked if I could transfer Rs. 3,000 to her once we arrived at the airport, as there was some glitch with his bank account. He also promised to transfer Rs. 3,500 to my account—Rs. 3,000 for his wife’s bill and Rs. 500 for me,” said Abdul.

Initially, Abdul was sceptical of the customer’s request as it seemed suspicious. He had heard about similar scams in driver groups and it struck him. So, he gave the man a phone number that wasn’t linked to any of the bank accounts and told him he would give it in cash to his wife. “The customer insisted on doing the transfer, and when he claimed to have transferred the money, I asked him to which number. He gave me the same number, and soon after, I received a text message claiming that my account had been credited with Rs. 3,500.”

That’s when Abdul realised that he had fallen for a scam. He said, “I tried calling the customer back, but he had turned off his phone. I felt helpless and didn’t know what to do next. So, I decided to go to the nearest police station, Kanchanbagh, to report the incident. But when I got there, they told me that this wasn’t their jurisdiction and directed me to call 1930. After 20 minutes, the call got connected, and they sent me a link to a PDF file, which I found surprising, as I didn’t think a driver like me would be expected to know about such procedures.”

Shaik Salauddin, founder and state president of Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union, said the police have been alerted of the scam two years ago, but no action has been taken against such fraudsters. “As a union, we create awareness to our drivers and advise them to be cautious and verify the authenticity of the bookings before starting the trip,” he said.

“One of our drivers recently encountered a new kind of scam while on duty,” he said and explained, “He received a ride request from a passenger who asked to be dropped off at the entrance of a small lane where the cab couldn’t pass through. Once they arrived, the passenger claimed that he needed cash and requested that the driver wait for two minutes while he transferred money to him on GPay from his friend’s account.”

He added, “The driver agreed to wait and handed over Rs. 1,000 to the passenger. However, the passenger didn’t return after the two minutes were up, and the ride wasn’t paid for nor cancelled. The driver became worried about his account being blocked and had no choice but to cancel the ride and leave the location.”

Mr. Salauddin continued, “I urge the police and the DGP to kindly look into this matter and also Ola and Uber to take action/block the accounts of such fraudsters. The drivers’ union has been raising complaints for the past two years, and there has been no action taken against these scams.”

He added, “We request that the authorities take steps to prevent such incidents from happening in the future and to provide compensation to the drivers who have been affected by the scam. The passengers should be warned against booking fake rides and those found guilty should be faced with strict action.”

In the meantime, drivers are being advised to be vigilant and to take precautions when accepting bookings from unknown passengers and ensure that the booking is genuine before setting off and verify the passenger’s identity.

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