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Russia: High Taxi Fares And Text Messaging Scams After Moscow Bombings

The aftermath of the recent subway bombings in Moscow is widespread. People mourn victims, looks for answers to numerous questions, contemplate the future of Russia and express anger with… taxi drivers and text message scammers who seem to take advantage of the tragedy.

Several blog posts that appeared right after the bombings mentioned taxi drivers who significantly increased their fares for people trying to get to their homes and jobs within the first hour after the tragedy. According to bloggers, an average taxi fare to get to the downtown Moscow from the places of the bombings (10-minute drive) was around 3,000 rubles ($101), which is eight times higher than an average fare for the same trip before the tragedy.

Popular (and former) TV anchor and current radio host Vladimir Solovyev wrote on his blog [RUS] regarding this issue:

Отдельно хочу сказать о мерзавцах, которые пытаются собрать деньги якобы на помощь пострадавшим. Их надо судить как пособников террористов. Таксисты в Америке после трагедии работали бесплатно, а наши взвинтили цены. В налоговую и штрафовать. Редкие подонки. Их бы номера и фамилии вывесить в сети и объявлять по радио и ТВ – устроить доску позора.

I want to tell you, in particular, about scoundrels who try to collect money for alleged help for the victims. They should go on trial as accomplices of terrorists. Taxi drivers in America after the tragedy [9/11 terrorist attack in New York City – V.I.] worked for free and ours increased fares. They need to be inspected by tax services and fined. Bastards. Their license plates and names should be put online and announced on radio and TV. They need to be put on the wall of shame.

Other bloggers (here, here and here, for example) also expressed their outrage about taxi drivers and occasionally cited the same example with taxi drivers in New York City during the 9/11 tragedy.

The issue was so pressing that the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly urged the drivers [RUS] not to use the situation to their advantage but “show solidarity with people who suffered in the tragedy.” To resolve the problem with transportation, the Moscow Mayor's office later assigned 131 free-ride minibuses to the area of the tragedy.

Another case of virtual marauders came out on mobile phones.

LJ user molnija warned [RUS] Muscovites about text messages asking for donations to help the victims of the metro bombings:

Пожалуйста, не доверяйте паническим смскам с незнакомых номеров!
мне в обед пришла смс
“Уважаемы Россияне, убедительно просим Вас оказать посильную помощь пострадавшим от терактов в Московском метро. Все средства будут перечислены в НИИ Склифосовского. Стоимость смс 45 руб без налогов”
позвонила оператору, мне сказали, что ни о чем подобном Склифу или реальной благотворительной организации они пока не слышали. и самый финиш – стоимость смс на сей чудный номер не 45, а почти сто рублей.

Please don't trust panic SMS [Short Message Services – V.I.] from unknown numbers!
I received a text message at noon.
“Dear Russians, we are asking you to help the victims of terrorist acts in Moscow metro. All money will be transferred to the Research Institute Named After Sklifosovsky [Moscow Institute of Emergency First Aid also referred to as “Sklif”- V.I.]. The cost of a text message is 45 rubles [$1.5] before taxes.”
I called the mobile company and they told me that  Sklif or any legitimate charity organization did not know anything about it. The interesting thing is that the real cost of a text message to this mysterious number is not 45 rubles but 100 rubles [$3.3].

Another blogger Apraxis added on his blog [RUS] that this concerns also those who live in Saint Petersburg.

Later, the biggest three mobile companies in Russia announced their decision [RUS] to compensate people who fell for the text message scam.

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