When Saja Kilani was stopped by a young man in downtown Toronto who claimed to need help, she said it was her instinct to help the boy.
“He looked very desperate and he looked young,” Kilani told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday.
Kilani, an actress and model living in Toronto, says she was walking along Bay Street and Yorkville Avenue on October 16 when a boy who looked about 15 stopped her and asked if she could pay for her ride by taxi with a card. She says he informed her that the taxi company only accepts cards and he only has cash.
“He had the money on him,” Kilani told CTV News Toronto. “It seemed like a fair situation.”
“And I would like someone to help me if it was me,” she added.
So, Kilani says she agreed to help the boy and walked to the taxi to make the payment.
According to Kilani, the driver asked her if she had a card before setting up the transaction on his machine. When she handed her card to the driver, she says the young boy immediately began to “fuss” and “try to distract her”.
In confusion, Kilani says she noticed something wrong.
“I could see out of the corner of my eye that he was placing my card between his legs and pretending to operate the machine,” she said.
The driver returned the machine, inserted the card, and Kilani made the payment, but when she pulled out the card, she says she noticed someone else’s name on the card and realized she had been victim of a scam.
“I leaned over his car […] and I said, ‘That’s not my card. I see what you are trying to do. I found my card between your legs. Give it to me,” Kilani said.
She says the man eventually relented and returned his card, but not before he pulled out his camera to attempt to record him and his license plate.
While checking in, Kilani said the boy jumped in the car with the driver and they both put on masks before driving off.
When contacted for comment, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) said the incident had been reported to them and an investigation was underway.
TPS said residents should not leave their debit or credit cards unattended inside a point-of-sale terminal, and should try to find out taxi numbers, business names and the identification of the driver when they frequent a taxi company.
When making a payment with a debit or credit terminal, TPS recommends covering your fingers when entering your PIN.
TPS encourages anyone who feels they are the victim of a “taxi scam” to contact it.
As for Kilani, she says she hopes her story will help others think critically if they find themselves in the same situation.
“In a situation like this where cards are involved, be careful,” she said.
“Warning, it’s probably something bigger than you think it is.”