A Malaysian tourist last Friday reported to a popular taxi company in Ho Chi Minh City she was overcharged for a short ride by a company taxi driver, but later it turned out she had took the unlicensed taxi that imitated that company's brand.
Rasnita Mohd Rasid, a reporter for Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times, was forced to pay VND4 million ($194) for a seven-kilometer ride that should normally cost just $7.
Officials and volunteers of a state-owned company that helps foreigners at tourist spots say the incident marks increasing taxi crimes against foreigners.
On May 10, Rasnita had taken the taxi belonging to what she thought was a reputed firm, Mai Linh, from Ben Thanh Market to the Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
An investigation conducted after she complained to the company found that the taxi was an unlicensed one that imitated the popular brand.
Rasniya said in complaint that she saw the "M. Taxi Group" logo on the taxi and assumed it belonged to the Mai Linh Taxi Company.
After driving her to Truong Son Street near the airport, the driver pulled over and asked Rasniya to pay $400 as taxi fees and 300 Malaysian ringgit ($98) as "fuel surcharges."
The two started to fight and the driver finally agreed to charge her VND4 million ($194) and left.
Rasniya and her friends had to walk to the airport from there.
The actual price for the 7-km ride is VND150,000 ($7).
After Rasnita's complaint, officials of the Mai Linh Taxi Company arrived at the Ben Thanh Market to investigate the incident and found that it was a fake taxi that imitated the company's logo.
Rasniya is just one of many foreign tourists who are frequent victims of taxi scams in the crowded Ho Chi Minh City.
According to the state-owned Public Services Company which sends volunteers to the city's tourist spots to help foreigners, the number of unlicensed taxis has boomed since early this year.
"Drivers of no-name or unlicensed taxis now have many ways to steal money from foreigners," a volunteer said.
"Some drivers take tourists to the destinations, and when the tourists give them bank notes with large denominations, they suddenly bang the door shut and drive away.
"A driver charged a tourist VND300,000 for a 2km ride from the War Remnants Museum to the Reunification Palace, while the meter was at VND30,000."
He added the tourist refused to pay and asked the volunteer, who was standing near the palace, to talk with the driver.
Officials of the Mai Linh Taxi Company said tourists should beware of illegal taxis that are imitating famous names by carefully observing drivers' uniforms and logos as well as telephone numbers on the taxis.
The spots where most illegal taxis imitating the Mai Linh brand park include the Ben Thanh Market, Bach Dang Wharf and Notre Dame Cathedral, they said.