It’s happened to everyone. There’s a destination that has to be met in a matter of minutes, despite being on the other side of town. A cab is hailed and the fare is quickly paid without thinking about the possibility of an overpayment. A former Chicago taxi driver conducted this act and has been suspended after overcharging 20-year-old woman in Chicago who claimed she was in a rush.
The story unfolded last December when Becky Siegel, a college student who resides in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, met some friends for dinner. Having taken the train from her suburb to downtown, she noticed upon arriving at Ogilvie Transportation Station that she was late. As a result, she took a ride in Ali Ghanzanfari’s taxi to meet up with her girlfriends.
It was once she arrived at the location that she made the mistake of not paying attention to her transaction. To pay for the fare, she used her credit card that was swiped to a device attached to the man’s phone. Considering her destination was only a little over a mile away, she should have paid around $5. Instead, she paid an astonishingly high fare of $787.33.
At the time, she thought the transaction was normal. Her heart sank at a later date when Siegel and her parents found the excessive charge online. As anyone would do in a similar situation, she immediately contacted her credit card company. The problem is that considering she did sign the charge with her finger, there was nothing that could be done except by contacting the cab driver.
Unfortunately the woman’s problems went from bad to worse when she tried to contact Ghanzanfari. During her conversation with the man, he mentioned how he was currently in Iran until September of 2014. This of course didn’t help her problem of losing an extensive sum of almost $800.
This is where the story turns bizarre. The former Chicago taxi driver admittedly recalled the overcharging transaction, stating that at the time he made a mistake, but he was unable to refund the woman her money until after he came back, which is what ultimately led to his license being at least temporarily suspended. In addition, he stated that immediately after the transaction he tried but failed to contact Siegel.
Ghanzanfari did cooperate with everything the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection needed for the investigation. However, once he stated that he had trouble contacting her, that’s where things appeared a little fishy. Considering he had her name and payment information, he should have been able to find her information whether it was on the internet, operator or going through public search records. By saying he didn’t know how to contact her is more than a little ridiculous and borders on a fishy dealing.
If that wasn’t enough, the suspended Chicago taxi driver stated that the amount he took from her wasn’t that much. This of course makes him sound like a typical scam artist, trying to redeem himself by saying his mistake wasn’t a big deal. The fact is $800 is a big deal, especially for a 20-year-old college student. In fact it’s downright criminal and while yes, she wasn’t paying attention, there is no way his device ever should have read the controversial amount of $787.33. That reeks of a scam.
While he has said that he would be happy to refund the money once he returns to the states, no one seems to be buying into it. For one, even if he is in Iran, there must be a way for him to settle the amount with her. Secondly, five or more months on top of what she already has waited for is a ridiculous time lapse. Due to this, Siegel stated that a Square representative would send her a check worth the full amount.
Sadly, this is not the first time a scenario like this has happened. In fact, it’s the second time a taxi scam has occurred in the Chicagoland area in 2013. Last August a Chinese student who was attending the University of Illinois was taken advantage of for a whopping $4,200 for the student’s travels to O’Hare International Airport, a trip that would normally cost $300.
Moral of the story? Customers need to pay attention. No matter how important the next destination is, it’s imperative to check taxi fares several times over to avoid being scammed and out of money. And for any Chicago taxi driver out there, it may seem like a clever idea to scam someone out of money, but after Ghanzanfari got suspended for overcharging an innocent college woman, one must think before having a ruined career.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey