$720 for a pedicab ride: drivers use Square payment system to scam tourists

Pedicab, NYC

Pedicabs are slow and silly-looking, but the bicycle-powered rickshaws remain a hit with tourists in New York and other cities. Unlike taxis, they are barely regulated — which means it’s easy for unscrupulous drivers to shake down passengers for exorbitant fares.

SquareWhile pedicab hustles are nothing new, the arrival of Square, which lets merchants take payments via a dongle and an app, mean the rip-offs are hitting new heights. In June, for instance, one driver charged a visiting Japanese couple $720 for a twenty-minute ride from New York’s midtown to Greenwich Village.

According to the New York Post, Square’s mobile card-reader makes it easier for dishonest drivers to demand absurd fares and to tack on fraudulent transaction fees that customers (late night drunks are a common target) discover much later.

“[Square is] helping these guys tremendously by doing this. It’s super easy to get an account and super hard for people who get cheated to find you again,” the head of the NYC Pedicab Owners Association, told the Post. A Square spokesman said victims can contact the company for details of suspicious transactions and that it shuts down accounts that engage in fraud.

So does Square deserve any blame for the pedicab rip-offs? It doesn’t appear so. Square has been aggressive about fighting fraud and requires customer confidence to function. The pedicab rip-offs are not the company’s fault, but instead just another example of how a new technology can benefit bad actors along with everyone else.

(Image by Joe Ravi via Shutterstock)

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