The Tale of the Cab Rides and the Counterfeit Change

My friend Melissa mentioned casually amidst an email conversation about our respective weekends that she had twice in as many weeks been given counterfeit ten dollar bills as change from cabbies. She thought perhaps it was a topic worth looking into. But look I did, and there does not seem to be a cab-driving ring of counterfeiters, at least any that have been caught! The google turns up a piece from the Taxi Insider — “The Voice of the New York Transportation Industry” — from back in 2003 about some Fox 5 investigative report that supposedly ferreted out the changing of legit twenty dollar bills for fake ones; a report that the Insider took great umbrage with. So, inconclusive! But as that piece points out “it is true that cabbies get counterfeit bills once in a while” and surely those are passed back and forth without guile in the course of a day’s driving. Or so it was maybe in 2003.

But now, driving cabs is getting more costly, what with gas prices at a gazillion dollars a gallon. And like when you somehow end up with one of those Canadian coins when you are going to do your laundry or whatnot, surely a cab driver would want to, assuming he spotted the fake, pay it forward as it were to one of his fares.

The scam, according to Melissa, is thus:

[W]hat they do is give you change for a $20…so a small cab ride for 4 bucks with change would be like a $5 and $10 back. They put the $5 on the outside so you can’t get a close look at the 10 but you know it’s there. So the second you get a closer look at the $10 it’s too late and they’re long gone. I ran after the guy on Friday and he clearly saw me in his rear view and kept going.

But how could she tell they were fake? Were they like Monopoly money, all strange sizes and wacked-out colors? Yes.

“[T]hey are clearly fake bills. The color is way off, the size is smaller and the print is shit.”

So maybe there is some counterfeit ring minting these tens and also taking lots of cab rides? Or perhaps Melissa has just fallen into one of those weird happenstances that she is always the recipient of faux money? Unfortunately, since it did not take place thrice, it thereby cannot be classified as a trend.

Her solution was to start using only her debit/credit card. A plan which is not without its own drawbacks.

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