Cuzco taxi fake money switcheroo scam

In my previous post I said I’ve only heard once of a person getting robbed in a taxi in Cuzco but then I remembered another incident. This one I know to be true because it involved my mamacita linda. It’s one of these things where you think “How on earth could this happen” but at the same time “I can see how it could happen to me.”

To understand the “I could see how it could happen to me” part, you have to keep in mind that Peru is the counterfeit money capital of the world (heads up via IKN). You commonly see fake money in Peru, mostly bills but also coins. It’s hard to imagine how making fake coins is worth the effort, but apparently to some in Peru it is. Any time a Peruvian accepts cash from another person, be it at a store, in a taxi, where ever, the person who accepts the cash always does at least a cursory inspection of the money. I’ve personally seen store clerks refuse counterfeit cash on a few occasions.

Counterfeit money switcheroo scam:

A few weeks ago mamacita linda took a taxi to work. In the center of Cuzco, taxis are S/.3 (~$1) about everywhere you go. If you want to go to some areas on the outskirts of the city like Larapa or San Sebastian the fare may be 5 to 8 Soles. On this fateful day the taxi driver asked mamacita linda for his fare a bit before they arrived at her work. Normally you pay as you get out of the taxi. Mamacita linda gave the driver S/.3 but he gave her back one of the coins (S/.2) saying it was a fake coin. Mamacita linda gave him another coin. The driver said that one was fake as well. Mamacita linda said she had no other coins and gave the driver a 20 Soles bill. The driver gave her back change for 10 Soles. Mamacita linda said “I gave you 20 Soles.” But the driver replied she only gave him 10.

All this is happening as the taxi is arriving in front of mamacita linda’s work – on a very busy street with no room for the cars to pass. Mamacita linda is upset but doesn’t want the hassle so she gets out and the taxi disappears in busy city traffic.

I’m not sure if my account of the story is exact to every detail. All in all mamacita linda estimated losing about 15 Soles to the unscrupulous taxi driver. He gave her change for S/.10 instead of S/.20 and probably held on to some of the coins that mamacita linda had originally given him as well.

You can easily think “How is that possible” but you have to keep in mind people in Cuzco take taxis practically on a daily basis. You have work and family and what not on your mind, you don’t exactly keep your guard up every time you hand a taxi driver his fare. Fake coins are common but the driver just used that as a distraction, while mamacita linda was trying to figure out her not-fake coins, the driver scammed her out of her change.

Mamacita linda was mad for the rest of the afternoon but we believe people get what they deserve in the end.


Con mi mamacita linda!

Calling a taxi in Cuzco

I hardly ever call for a taxi in Cuzco. Peruvian city streets are flooded with taxis and you can simply wave your hand to hail a cab most anytime anywhere. Occasionally you want to call a cab, maybe you’re in a really quiet residential area where there are few taxis, or perhaps it’s late at night. The taxis you call from a central dispatch are supposed to be legal and safe, not some guy with a car moonlighting. Calling a cab from a central dispatch is considered safer than hailing a cab in the street but only once I’ve heard of a girl getting robbed in a taxi in Cuzco – and I’m not quite sure what to believe of her story.

The other day I had to be at the airport early for a flight to Lima and I decided to call a taxi to our apartment. I figured it would be quicker than to go out in the street and hail a cab at that early hour. The dispatcher told me my taxi would arrive in 6 minutes, which was about right. I hopped in and we were on the way to the airport.

While riding in the back of the cab I could listen to the dispatcher call her drivers over the radio. It was quite entertaining. The dispatcher would talk sweet and funny as long as she was getting her way with the drivers but change in an instant to a condenscending angry tone when she didn’t get her way. She complained to 2 drivers that they took too long to get where they were going, she fussed at another for going to the wrong apartment building and at one point she yelled at driver “If you don’t want to work then don’t come to work!” I think she’s good at her job but probably doesn’t have a boyfriend.

We got closer to the airport and as we were about to turn into the airport parking my driver reached up and pealed the “TAXI” sticker off from his windshield. From our house to the airport taxis are about S/.5 (~$2) but calling one to the house is a few Soles extra. The driver said 8 Soles, which is about right. I gave him 10 Soles (you’re not expected to tip taxi drivers in Cuzco). The driver fumbled around his center console and said “No change”. He was pretending not to have any change. It worked, I said thanks and got out. I didn’t want to bother and I figured S/.2 extra was a pittance for this poor driver having to listen to mean dispatcher girl all night long 🙂

I called to get a licensed taxi but instead I got overcharged and the guy was moonlighting. Oh well. Then I checked in for my flight to Lima… Yippie, center seat! That’s okay, for my next flight I’ll have the left front seat.


I miss my baby goose while I'm away on a trip to deliver airplanes.