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50% jump in fare cheats. One cabby cheated 3 times in 8 days.

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50% jump in fare cheats. One cabby cheated 3 times in 8 days.

Post by Benny on 1st July 2008, 11:05 am

One man even raised his fist
Passenger 1 opens door & bolts when he reaches destination
Passenger 2 claims he has no money & offers $4 for $32 cab fare
Passenger 3 asks him to open boot, then flees
Taxi driver Lee Lian Seng lost about $72 in earnings to three fare cheats. He has lodged police reports. -- TNP Picture: CHONG SHIN YEN

IT has been three times unlucky for cabby Lee Lian Seng.

Within a week this month alone, the 57-year-old cabby has encountered fare cheats thrice.

And he is not alone.

ComfortDelGro, the largest taxi operator here with about 15,000 taxis, said that the number of such cheats has increased by 50 per cent.

The company received a monthly average of 128 cases this year, up from 85 last year.

As a result of such cheats, Mr Lee lost $72 - not to mention the time spent lodging police reports and informing his company. He is a cabby with ComfortDelGro and works the night shift.

Mr Lee said that in one case, the fare cheat bolted before he could stop him. Another was bold, refusing to pay outright.

Then, there was a man who came up with a ploy that allowed him to slip away unnoticed.

SNEAKY PLOY

Mr Lee had picked up one man from Boat Quay on 21 Jun.

He asked to go to Block 249, Bangkit Road in Bukit Panjang to pick up his wife and children before going on to Gangsa Road.

Mr Lee said: 'Along the way, he even asked me if $30 was enough for the fare. I told him that it was more than enough.'

The man then talked on his handphone, telling his wife to wait at the void deck with the children.

When they arrived at the block, the man asked Mr Lee to open the boot so that he could put his baby's pram in there later. He got out of the cab and lifted the boot up.

Mr Lee said: 'I was looking at him through the rear-view mirror. But after he lifted the boot up, my view was blocked.'

He waited for about a minute before getting out to check.

'He was gone. I went to the nearby lift lobbies to search for him but I couldn't find him.'

The man's fare came up to $24.30.

Mr Lee waited for another 15 minutes, but the man did not return.

'I've treated fare cheats as part and parcel of my job. But I waste time waiting for them to return, when I could be picking up other passengers,' he said.

Five days before that, Mr Lee had picked up three men along Geylang Lorong 4 at about 3.30am.

The passengers spoke Thai and one of them alighted at the Singapore Discovery Centre. The other two asked to go to Kian Teck Crescent in Tuas.

Mr Lee said: 'The fare was $32.10 when we reached Tuas. But one of them told me that they had no money and showed me two $2 notes.

'I replied, 'How can? I will call the police'. The man who was in the front seat then raised his fist at me.

'I feared for my safety so I kept quiet.'

The men then left his cab, but Mr Lee did not dare to follow them as the road was quiet and both sides were forested. There was a dormitory in the distance and the two men went towards it.

Mr Lee immediately lodged a police report.

In the last case, Mr Lee picked up a man from Serangoon at about 9pm on 14 Jun.

He asked to go to Tanjong Pagar first and then to Orchard Road.

But along Craig Road, he asked Mr Lee to stop so that he could pass some documents to his friend.

'We waited for about a minute but his friend was still not in sight,' Mr Lee said.

'He then said that he would go and look for him. Before I could say anything, he opened the door and bolted.' The fare was $15.60 and the man never returned.

Mr Lee said he has come across seven other fare cheats during the 23 years that he has been a cabby.

He added that fare cheats often got away scot-free because they felt that cabbies would not bother taking action against them for a few dollars.

'But a few dollars here and there will add up to a lot,' Mr Lee said, 'and it's not fair to cabbies who had worked hard to earn the money.'

Still, he can take comfort that from tomorrow, taxi fare cheats will face harsher penalties.

Under the law, first-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 while repeat offenders can be fined $2,000 and jailed six months.

ComfortDelGro's spokesman Ms Tammy Tan said the company takes a serious view of such cases and plays an active role in helping their cabbies recover the fare.

Ms Tan said: 'Our cabbies are advised to lodge reports with the company and the police whenever they come across fare cheats.'

The company has reimbursed part of the fare to Mr Lee for one of the incidents and is working with him on the other two.

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