Chinese Student Scammed, Overcharged $4,000 For Cab Ride From O’Hare

Chicago cab at O'Hare

An international student with limited language skills arrives in an airport and is approached by a helpful-looking taxi driver. The student needs to get to a place 150 miles away. Sorry kid, no more buses, says the driver. But I can take you.

Great, the kid replies. How much?

Oh, only 1,000 RMB.

Sound familiar? Except this didn’t happen in China, and the driver didn’t quote RMB. He said dollars, as in 1,000 USD — for a trip from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Urbana-Champagne. Oh, and he also lied about the buses.

After reaching his destination, the driver changed his mind and said the fare would actually be $4,800. The student didn’t have that much, so he forked over $4,240 — all of his money.

Reports Illinois’s The News-Gazette:

(UI police Sgt. Tom) Geis said the student initially tried to reach Chicago police via email and that the case came to their attention on Monday of this week. They then contacted the Chicago police station at O’Hare in hopes of identifying the scammer. The only description police have is that he is a white male, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a medium build and lighter short hair. The student did not supply an age.

Geis said he’s heard of students being taken advantage of through Craigslist scams for apartment rentals or fake checks sent as downpayments for summer jobs — but never anything quite like this.

The incident happened on August 20, with the student’s plane touching down at around 6 pm.


Geis said the student was so overwhelmed that he left his cellphone in the scammer’s vehicle.

There is, as far as we can tell, only one difference between getting scammed in China and in the US. You can call the police in the latter, and they’ll actually help. Of course, with such limited descriptions of the scammer — not even an age estimate? — it seems unlikely the student will see his lost money.

Julie Misa, director of the International Student and Scholar Services program, said her office has a website with all kinds of information that foreign students can view before they ever leave home.

“We point them to our web page where we have extensive pre-arrival information, including information about transportation from Chicago to Champaign.

“We try to get them basic information. We do talk about how much cash to bring to get started. I think our suggestion is more in the neighborhood of $2,000,” said Misa.

There’s a reason programs exist to prepare students for their trips abroad. What an awful way to start an international adventure, this. We do, of course, wish the best for the kid. It can only get better from here.

UI student from China scammed out of thousands at O’Hare (The News Gazette, h/t Daily Mail via Nick Papa)

    9 Responses to “Chinese Student Scammed, Overcharged $4,000 For Cab Ride From O’Hare”

    1. Harland

      What kind of student walks around with $4,000 in cash in his pocket?

      I suppose he missed this idiom on his last English exam: “A _____ and his _____ are soon _____.”

    2. wafflestomp

      The problem with this story is we need to trust what a Chinese person says happened. I just can’t take his word for it. Also too upset to REMEMBER HIS PHONE? Fucking moron

    3. name

      When reporting a “crime” for which one has only one story, and it is from the “victim”, the word, Mr Tao, is “Allegedly”. The guy could have spent the money in gambling, whoring, eating and booze and lost his mobile in the process, we wouldn’t know. Would we?

    4. Chinese Netizen

      If he was, in fact, scammed, then it’s a hard lesson that there will be a-holes everywhere on this planet and not just in Washington DC and Zhongnanhai.

    5. luke

      Nothing in this story makes sense. What student doesn’t make any plans or do research on how to get from the airport his destination in a foreign country? And why is he in the U.S. if his language abilities are so limited that he can’t ask “how much” or for help at the travel desks that line the walls at pickup? And once he gets into the taxi, how does the driver even know that the student has $4000? Does the kid flash him a wad of bills? “Hey kid, how much do you got there?” “$4000.” “I just realized that the ride cost $5000, but I’ll do you a favor and take $4000.” “Ok!”

      The kid is a class A moron. I’m sympathetic to people taken advantage of, but the student seems devoid of all common sense and preparation. He was bound to fail one way or another in the U.S.


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