PRIVATE HIRE drivers and operators are being advised to be on their guard after a GMB Union member became the victim of an elaborate cab booking scam.
The unnamed driver was sent a job by his company to collect a passenger from Hemel Hempstead Hospital and take them to a London hotel. However, en route he was called by the ‘employee of the hotel’ who made the booking with a last minute change of plan and asked him to go to an industrial estate in Luton to collect a package containing an important computer disk that was needed urgently by the hotel.
After collecting the package, the driver was told he should then go pick up the passenger from the hospital, who was an actress from the TV soap Hollyoaks, and return both to the hotel.
On the way to his re-routed destination the driver received another call from the hotel employee, asking him to pay £250 on their behalf when the package was collected. The man said he would be repaid when he brought back the package to the hotel and also receive a handsome tip for doing so.
Upon arrival at the industrial estate the driver was met by a man holding a small package outside one of the units. He was handed the parcel and in return gave the man £250 before driving away.
When he got to the hospital, the driver called his contact at the hotel to tell him he was waiting in the car park and enquired when the actress would be coming out to meet him? He was told she was being detained for further tests and that the driver should instead take the parcel to the hotel reception, where he would be reimbursed for the journey and expenses, and get a tip on top.
Unfortunately, the driver arrived at the hotel to discover that nobody knew anything about the parcel collection, the actress or who the caller was. At this point, he opened the package to discover it contained nothing but a blank CD.
The driver in question was too embarrassed to discuss the incident with PHC Magazine, but Steve Garelick, secretary of the GMB Professional Drivers’ Branch, said:
Drivers are often asked to assist passengers in some way and, more often than not, are only too happy to do so. And the fact that this request was believed to have come from someone employed by a top hotel, it was not deemed as something out of the ordinary by the driver.
He did not realise he was the victim of a well executed con until it was too late – and he paid the price. We advise other operators and drivers to be aware of this scam, so hopefully no one else will get caught out.
Fortunately for the driver, the story did have a reasonably happy ending. The operator he worked for took pity on him and gave him £300 to cover some of his loss.
There was no such silver lining for another driver, Ian Dolwin, who earlier this year told kentlive.news how he became the victim of a similar scam. Ian, a private hire operator and driver from Tunbridge Wells, was left out of pocket after he was duped over the phone by a man called ‘David’, who hired him to drive to the BBC in Coventry to collect some parcels, before heading to a hotel in Milton Keynes to pick up Eastenders stars Barbara Windsor and Samantha Womack.
Mr Dolwin was told by the caller he would need to pay £750 to the man he collected the packages from, but would be repaid by the BBC.
Having driven all the way to the West Midlands, Mr Dolwin was given the parcels by a man outside the BBC in Coventry and in turn handed him the money. He then headed off to collect the Eastenders actresses from Milton Keynes.
On arrival at the hotel, he called ‘David’ to enquire when the celebrities would be ready to go and was told they had got into another taxi by mistake. But, he was reassured that the mistake had been realised and they were waiting for him at a service station on the M25.
Unfortunately for the luckless cabbie, this was the final cruel act of the conman’s 240 mile wild goose chase, and when he arrived at the services to find no taxi or actresses, the penny finally dropped. He had been well and truly conned!