Woman charged $108 for short ride in alleged taxi 'scam' at Aussie airport

Brooke Marsh, 22, admits she was scared to challenge the fee while in the car alone after realising her error.

Brooke Marsh, 22, smiles at the camera (left). Right, the journey Brooke took between Melbourne Airport and Carlton.
Brooke Marsh, 22, claims she was 'severely overcharged' for her 21 kilometre journey between Melbourne Airport and the city's CBD. Source: Supplied

A woman who claims she was ushered into an unmarked vehicle and overcharged for a taxi journey from a major Aussie airport is warning others to be vigilant after hearing she's not the first to be "targeted".

Brooke Marsh, 22, was travelling from the Sunshine Coast to Melbourne for work at the end of last month and admitted she was "sleep deprived" when she landed — so she accepted a "nice" man's offer for a taxi.

"I was coming down the escalator and was sort of just looking around, I probably would have looked a bit lost. And then this nice man approached me saying, 'Oh, do you need a taxi?'" she recalled to Yahoo News.

Before she knew it she was walking towards a vehicle that was not stopped at the taxi rank, with the passenger door and boot already open — a detail Marsh later suspected was perhaps an intentional move to prevent her from seeing the number plate.

Marsh claims the driver introduced himself as Eddie and allegedly claimed he had his own private chauffeur company "and had a private fleet of 10 cars". He quoted $2.80 per kilometre for the trip, and since her destination was only 21 kilometres away, she was satisfied her fare would be less than $60.

After a "nice conversation" with the man, the pair exchanged numbers so he could pick her up the following day for her return trip. Then the driver got out the payment terminal with $108 — significantly more than the quoted price — flashing on the screen. It was at this moment Marsh claims she realised she had been duped into a "shady" taxi ride.

"I didn't want to say anything because it was just me in the car... I was annoyed at myself, we learn growing up don't get into a car with a stranger," she said. "But in that moment I just wanted to get out of the situation."

She paid and took the receipt, which had 'GM Taxipay' at the top of it, a mobile payment terminal designed specifically for taxi drivers, and jumped out of the car.

Email from 13 Cabs (left) an $108 receipt (right).
13Cabs confirmed to Brooke the $108 fee she paid for her taxi wasn't paid to one of their drivers. Source: Supplied

Driver claims no recollection of 'severe overcharge'

Marsh admitted she was worried something sinister would happen if she refused payment but later messaged the driver and queried the high cost of the ride. In text messages seen by Yahoo, the driver justified the high cost by claiming he worked for Silver Services — a premium taxi service offered by 13Cabs. Information that contradicts his initial claim that he owned his own taxi service business.

According to 13cabs, Silver Service fares are exactly the same as 13cabs, however the booking fees per state may vary.

However, when Marsh contacted 13Cabs to confirm the identification of the man, she was told the driver identification number didn't exist, with a recommendation to contact Safe Transport Victoria. She believes the driver works for GM Cabs and that he "severely overcharged" her.

Yahoo spoke to the man directly and he claims GM Cabs is not the name of his business, but the name of the pay terminal in his vehicle. He declined to disclose the name of the company he works for and said he has no recollection of the interaction with Marsh.

Alarmingly, there are over 300 negative reviews on GM Cabs' Tripadvisor with people claiming they've experienced similar situations to Marsh. On Reddit, where Marsh shared the ordeal, many agreed "it is a known problem at Melbourne airport".

"It's unbelievable that touting still exists at Melb," one person said. Others agreed people should "absolutely always go to the proper taxi rank. This is advice for every airport in the world."

A pick-up area seen for passengers at Melbourne airport.
Travellers have long complained about so-called touting by private drivers at Melbourne airports. Source: AAP

Former taxi driver Rod Barton, who has been voted to the legislative council in Victoria, has previously called for changes to stop touting at Melbourne airports by unregistered drivers.

"The government must decided whether they continue to let the wolves roam or take the necessary action to protect passengers and law-abiding small business operators," he wrote in 2022 in a push to introduce restrictions.

As for Marsh, she received a refund of $45 after threatening to report the driver to the police.

Yahoo News Australia has contacted Melbourne Airport for comment.

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