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Beware Taxi driver counterfeit scheme (Medellin)

Here's what I thought happened, and below you'll learn what 'really' happened:

What I thought happened: Last night I withdrew 50,000 COP from the ATM at Parque Lleras in Poblado. I hailed a taxi to drive to Laureles. When I get there, the driver, whose meter's LED was broken, tells me the fare is 23, Protected content it's 12,000). I point this out to him and he agrees to 14, Protected content me). I pay him with a 20,000 note. He then tells me the note is fake. I figure that because he tried to scam me on the fare, that he's also trying to scam out of this too. I give him a second 20,000 note, which when held to the light, looks like the security band is in place. He then tells me this is a fake too. Now, I know he's full of it, so I go to a corner store I know and buy a can of beer to get change to pay the taxi driver waiting for me. The store's owner tells me the note is fake, in fact both notes are fake, but the 10,000 note is good.

Lessons here are: Check the money you receive from any ATM here, even Bancolombia - keep receipts; and check the taxi meter when you get in.

I'm online with my US Bank now to see if they can reverse the transaction. 40,000 COP is not a big deal, but it could have been because I might not have been able to pay the taxi driver, or he could have thought I was ripping him off.

What really happened: My Colombia neighbor explained that what really happened is that when I handed the taxi driver a 20,000 COP note, he already had a fake 20,000 note in his hand, and pretended to inspect my note when in fact he was inspecting his own counterfeit note. He told me my note was a fake, but he had already pocketed my good note. Then, when I handed him a second 20,000 note, he played the same slight of hand again. I have since cancelled my complaint with my bank.

1) Have any hotel lobby call you a taxi, so there is arecord
2) Avoid hailing a taxi from the street
3) Don't get into a taxi that appears to have a broken meter (like this one)
4) Ensure the taxi plate looks legitimate
5) Look at the note's serial number before handing it to a driver, so that if he plays this game, you'll see whether or not it was the note you handed him
6) If anyone claims your money is counterfeit, and you're in a safe public place, ask them to stick around while you call the police to investigate. If they are the crooked store clerk, or taxi driver, that's the last thing they want

Most importantly, if you feel unsafe or sense something is wrong, avoid the situation, and get out of as soon as possible before things get really bad.

One of my best friends in Medellin runs a taxi service, so this is no reflection on Medellin taxi drivers as a whole, and this was my first and only bad experience with a taxi ride (out of hundreds). The people of Medellin are delightful, and overwhelmingly honest and caring, and I'm honored to be a guest in your lovely country.

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