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“Never in a million years would I have thought”: Student victim speaks out on taxi scam

Last weekend, at least eight individuals fell victim to a taxi scam in the downtown Kingston area.

Kingston Police have since released a statement describing the scam, which involved an older man acting as a taxi driver and a younger man acting as a customer. The customer would approach a victim asking for assistance paying his taxi fare, and when the customer passed their debit or credit card to the driver, he used a skimming device to obtain the card PIN, kept the card, and returned a fraudulent card to the victim.

Victims have lost thousands of dollars and are currently in touch with Kingston Police.

Student victim speaks out

YGK News spoke to Grace Chen, a third-year student at Queen’s University, about her experience as a victim who has lost $1,445.

According to Chen, she and a friend were walking home on Saturday night when an adolescent boy approached them, claiming that the taxi he took did not accept cash, and asked to borrow a debit card.

“When we were first asked for help, I think my friend and I both knew that it was very suspicious and we were very close to saying no and were about to keep talking, but then it was that boy who really got me,” Chen said. 

“There’s just something about his plea for help, like he was literally tearing up, and the fact that he was already holding money in front of us, saying ‘it’s only seven dollars, all you need to do is tap with your debit card’ … I thought, I don’t want to leave this kid hanging at 1:00am with nowhere to go.”

Chen said when she agreed, the driver extended a card machine to her, but it declined when she tapped her debit card. The driver then took the machine and her card while the customer made small talk with her, and gave her back a card belonging to another victim.

“It was just so crazy because never in a million years would I have thought that this was strategically planned out,” Chen said. “It was almost a week later when I [realized], wait, this isn’t my debit card. Something’s wrong.”

Chen said she immediately recalled the Saturday incident and was “very shocked” when she realized what had happened.

“There are so many people like that in society who are taking advantage of young, vulnerable people and people’s kindness,” she said. “These people are so intelligent, but in an evil way … they thought about how we would react. It’s 1:00am and most students are tired, maybe drunk, can’t think twice about their use of credit or debit cards.”

Chen emphasized the importance of self-forgiveness as a victim.

“I try not to blame myself because in that moment, I was so blind to the possibility [of a scam],” Chen said. “I’m used to trusting in good people and I was raised in a good environment, but I realized that … not everyone is trustworthy, and so I should always think more than twice when I’m about to help a stranger.”

Chen said she and the other victims are currently in touch with Kingston Police.

“It’s a very serious case that, thankfully, the police are very invested in since it affected so many people in one night,” she said. “With enough evidence, they hope that they can get them arrested and provide our banking institutions with enough evidence to reimburse our money, which I have confidence in.”

With a second homecoming weekend coming up and Halloween weekend following, Chen hopes her coming forward and the media exposure of the scam will save people from falling victim in the coming weeks.

Kingston Police statement

Kingston Police’s media release urges “the public to call police immediately if they see this occurring or are approached.” Those with relevant information are encouraged to contact Detective Constable Brian Hanwell at bhanwell@kingstonpolice.ca or (613) 549-4660 ext. 6337.

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