Taxi scams rife at Vietnamese airports

Taxi scams rife at Vietnamese airports

A passenger pays VND150,000 ($7) for a one-kilometer journey from Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Many cabbies have been coordinating with multiple groups of intermediaries to con and overcharge passengers at airports across Vietnam.

A probe by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has revealed the alarming situation at various airdromes in the Southeast Asian nation, including Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City and Noi Bai in Hanoi.

The frauds have been carried out both secretly and in front of airport security guards.

On the afternoon of March 28, Le Hoang Phuc, 40, who resides in District 12, and his group of more than 10 middlemen were preying on passengers at the domestic terminal of Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

Phuc approached a man who had just got off his flight from Hanoi and asked if he wanted a cheap taxi.

He stated that a journey from the airdrome to the Mekong Hospital, which is only one kilometer away, would cost VND250,000 (US$11).

Le Hoang Phuc at Tan Son Nhat Airport. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Le Hoang Phuc at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Photo: Tuoi Tre

As the commuter hesitated, Nguyen Hung, a member of Phuc’s gang, joined in the conversation and offered a ride VND150,000 ($7).

“Do not trust the others. You cannot have a better price,” Hung added.

After a deal was reached, Hung made a phone call before a sedan arrived.

The passenger was not aware he had been tricked into paying VND150,000 for a ride that normally costs about VND20,000 ($1).

With a similar approach, the scam happens on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, at Noi Bai International Airport, the cons are kept at a lower profile as the intermediaries are often active late at night and in the early morning.

Nguyen Hung, a member of Phuc’s gang. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Hung, a member of Phuc’s gang. Photo: Tuoi Tre

At around 1:00 am on March 19, passengers on a flight from Ho Chi Minh City were hustled by a group of men who advertised their taxi services.

“A ride to Thanh Nien Street in Tay Ho District costs VND300,000 [$13] for two people or VND250,000 [$11] for one person,” Huy, an experienced middleman, said.

Once a passenger agreed to the prices, Huy led him to a car parked nearby, whose driver would take care of the rest.

Huy and his accomplices often offer a journey from the airport to downtown Hanoi at VND250,000 to VND300,000, which is equal to the normal fare.

Passengers are forced to travel together but they are not allowed to share the fare.

This means that a driver, if carrying three passengers, would earn at least VND750,000 ($33) as each of the passenger has to pay VND250,000.

At Cam Ranh International Airport in south-central Khanh Hoa Province, such mediators often disguise as family members of flyers to avoid authorities.

A group of five intermediaries at Tan Son Nhat Airport. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A group of five intermediaries at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Well-organized operations

Tuoi Tre reporters, under the cover of a car driver who wants to cooperate with Phuc’s team in Ho Chi Minh City, managed to have a talk with him on April 20.

“If you work with me, you won’t have to worry about anything. You can earn up to hundreds of millions of dong a year [VND100 million = $4,400],” Phuc said.

“Without me, you may get heavy fines if you break the rules at the airport,” he continued.

In order to carry out the scam, a team of at least three people is needed, Phuc stated, adding that the more the better.

If a passenger agrees to pay, Phuc and his team will take 20 percent while the rest belongs to the driver.

Huy, a middleman at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Huy, a middleman at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Meanwhile, Quang, a member of a similar group at Noi Bai, said his team will pocket 30 percent of the fare.

With two years of experience, Quang said the money would be used to do a lot of things, including “expanding connections.”

“You need many people on your side in order for the operations to be successful,” he stated.

One of the important things both Phuc and Quang highlighted is dressing well.

“Passengers will be more likely to trust you. And you can also blend into the crowd to avoid competent authorities,” Quang explained.

Intermediaries disguise as family members of flyers at Cam Ranh International Airport in south-central Khanh Hoa Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Intermediaries disguise as family members of flyers at Cam Ranh International Airport in south-central Khanh Hoa Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre

According to Loc, a cab driver in Hanoi, although working with these middlemen is dangerous, many drivers choose to do so for the lucrative income.

Regarding the possible involvement of airport security guards, leaders of Tan Son Nhat said they had never heard of such collusion.

“We are willing to investigate and deal with the issue and hope to be provided with photos, videos, and other evidence,” they added.

In the meantime, airport commuters are recommended to only use services of official transport companies or book a ride on their own phones, and not to take any offer from intermediaries.

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