Bogus Chicago Taxi Driver Scams Chinese Student Out Of $4,240 In Cab Ride Ruse

You're going to need a story restoring your faith in humanity after this one.

Last week, reports rolled in that an unscrupulous driver posing as a Chicago cabbie scammed a Chinese student with "a limited command of English" out of more than $4,200 for a cab ride that normally costs less than $300.

Police say the 18-year-old University of Illinois student from China arrived at O'Hare on Aug. 20 and was trying to make his way to the Urbana-Champaign campus some 150 miles south of the city.

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"A man approached him and said the bus wouldn't be there until midnight and that he could drive him for $1,000," UI police Sgt. Tom Geis told the News-Gazette.

The student agreed, but when the driver made it to the residence halls, he wrote down the cost of the trip as $4,800, DNAinfo Chicago reports. The student reportedly gave the driver all the cash he had on him, a total officials believe was $4,240.

Citing a taxi booking website, DNAinfo said passengers should expect to pay closer to $289 for a cab ride from O'Hare to the UI campus.

Authorities said the student did not know the culture and felt like he didn’t have a choice but to pay the total, CBS affiliate KMOV reports.

The suspect is described as a white male, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a medium build and lighter short hair and driving a dark-colored SUV.

Campus police and international student affairs officials at UI say they give presentations to foreign students once they arrive on campus, and a website of information -- including travel from O'Hare to Champaign -- is available pre-arrival.

"We talk about U.S. customs, how to call 911, that we are service oriented," said Sgt. Joan Fiesta, who focuses on crime prevention. "People from different cultures have different police cultures. Their experience with crime may be vastly different."

Julie Misa, director of the International Student and Scholar Services program, told the News-Gazette her office proves extensive information for arriving foreign students and said, "We do point them in that direction. It's a matter of how much you want to do (in terms of advance research)." Misa also said they typically suggest foreign students show up with somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 "to get started."

Geis said most scams of students have to do with Craigslist apartment rentals or phony checks for summer jobs and that the cab scam is a new one for his office.

"It's hard to know why this would have happened," Misa said.

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