Editor’s note: Y.L. and her family have recently fallen victim to a scam taxi driver in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, who has “a professional trick” to distract his passengers and steal their money.
In this piece sent to Tuoi Tre News, the Malaysian recounts her incident to “prevent more tourists from being victimized” as well as stop unscrupulous people from “tainting the name and image of the country."
This year is my fifth consecutive year visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
I have returned so many times because I like the food in Vietnam and I met nice and friendly Vietnamese people on my trips.
However, what I have encountered on this last trip may hold me back from returning to the city.
I have always been warned of taxi scams in Ho Chi Minh City and been advised to only take the two more reliable taxis, Vinasun and Mai Linh.
I have been taught by my friend who lives in the city how to identify fake Mai Linh or Vinasun taxis, including incorrect telephone numbers or misspelled company names, etc.
Unfortunately, bad luck struck me on December 1 at 10:00 am when my family and I boarded a Vinasun taxi right outside the Saigon Central Post Office.
I checked that it was a real Vinasun taxi, as it stated the correct phone number, 18.104.22.168, and also noted that the cab had a notepad, a new device recently installed in all Vinasun cars.
As it was my last day in Ho Chi Minh City, I had lowered my guard, which I now regret. I usually take note of the driver's name and taxi identification number but this time, my family and I paid only brief attention to the driver’s name and the taxi ID.
Upon reaching our destination, Ben Thanh Market, the driver hurried my parents and I who were seated in the back to alight. He was rude. My parents got out, but I remained because I wasn’t sure if he would harm my husband or just drive him away.
As the meter showed a fee of VND27,000 my husband was about to give him VND30,000 but the driver was reluctant to accept the money and started taking out a newspaper over my husband's hands and wallet.
He wrote "27" on the newspaper (as if we could not read it from the meter). My husband took this to mean he wanted small change so he looked for smaller notes in his wallet. The driver became even more impatient and took the newspaper out again to cover my husband's wallet and hands. We found it suspicious so we shouted at him.
After the commotion, my husband managed to take out VND26,000 and to our surprise, the driver accepted the money and quickly released my husband's seatbelt, demanding that we alight as if he had picked the wrong passenger who made him suffer a loss in fare.
We alighted, but just before we could close the taxi door properly, the driver drove off.
After the taxi left, my husband felt suspicious over what had happened, checked the money in his wallet and found at least VND1.5 million was gone. We clearly remembered that we had three VND500,000 bills and we had just lost them in seconds.
The driver managed to grab about VND1.5 million from my husband's wallet by using the newspaper to cover it and distracting us with an argument. He had clearly performed the fraud before as he was fast and did it without us noticing.
We then walked back to our hotel and got the hotel staff to accompany us to the police station to make a report.
Unfortunately, the police officer refused to take our statement and asked us to go to another police station. All in, we visited two police stations but we were told that we could not lodge a police report because the police do not serve tourists.
Upon returning from my holiday, I contacted Vinasun and the company sent me pictures of some taxi drivers to identify and I managed to identify the driver who robbed us.
With the help of some graduates of the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH), who were outside the Saigon Central Post Office taking their graduation pictures at the time we boarded the taxi, I managed to ask for one of their pictures, which has the taxi in its background.
The taxi identification number is similar to what I have remembered.
Vinasun told me that this taxi driver had been sacked in 2014 and he had colluded with other cabbies in multiple cheating cases.
Many cases have been reported but I was told that the police won’t take any action because the victims are tourists. There is not enough evidence to arrest him.
This part puzzles me - why should such a thief still be allowed to go around Ho Chi Minh City without any action against him?
How can he still be in a Vinasun uniform? How can he still be colluding with Vinasun's taxi drivers in performing all these robberies when many incidents have been reported?
I share this story to create awareness to readers of this scam which could happen to anyone, especially tourists.
This man will continue to repeat the act because no action has been taken against him thus far.
The incident has definitely left a bad impression on my parents who visited Ho Chi Minh City for the first time in their life, and it has definitely taken my trust away from a supposedly reputable taxi company.
If you have been victimized by taxi drivers with similar tricks, please send us your story via firstname.lastname@example.org.