Mindy Zimmering was heading to a Richmond, B.C., dollar store Tuesday night when she decided to be a Good Samaritan and help out a young man who approached her in the parking lot and said he didn’t have enough for a taxi fare.
She says her good deed ended with almost $7,000 in fraudulent charges on her debit card, making her one of a handful of victims of an elaborate scam happening in the city.
Richmond RCMP released a public warning on April 22 in hopes of protecting others from Zimmering’s fate.
On Monday, police issued a second warning to highlight the scam’s seriousness.
According to police, there have been at least eight reports since April 22 of a man approaching people in busy parking lots asking for help with a cab fare.
After the victim agrees to help, a fake taxi arrives and the driver, who is in on the scam, says he can only take debit cards and the tap function doesn’t work on his machine. He then takes the card and pretends to make a transaction, has the victim enter their PIN, then gives them back a different card.
Zimmering said she was handed back a debit card that looked exactly like her own and did not think anything was amiss.
She says she learned of the fraudulent charges when her bank contacted her. By then, five illegal transactions totalling about $6,900 had been made, including the withdrawal of $2,500 in cash.
Zimmering said, in hindsight, there were red flags she missed.
“What cab does not want cash?” said Zimmering, who says she is now just hoping her bank will reimburse her stolen funds.
She wants others to remember to always look for the cab driver’s permit inside the vehicle before making a financial transaction and to question the driver should they request a specific method of payment.
Zimmering said the man who approached her was about 25 to 35 years old and the vehicle was a red sedan with a taxi sign on top of it. Police have also told the public to be wary of a white Toyota Camry with a similar sign.
RCMP say the scammers could be using several different vehicles, all with a white taxi sign on display.
The police-issued warning describes the man approaching people as Middle Eastern and in his early 20s. The fake driver is alleged to be a Fijian or South Asian man in his early 20s.
“Our frontline and economic crime unit investigators are working diligently to identify and locate the suspects. Meantime, we believe there is a need to warn the public of this fraudulent activity,” said Richmond RCMP Cpl. Ian Henderson.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212, quoting file number 2202-10686. To remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or visit solvecrime.ca.