When Saja Kilani posted her first TikTok video, she didn’t expect it to reach so many people.

But more than a million views later, the 24-year-old Toronto woman has managed to raise awareness of taxi scams after sharing her experience.

Last week, Kilani was approached in the city’s Yorkville neighbourhood by a young boy looking desperate and flushed. He asked her, “Could you help me? I just took this taxi but he only takes cards and I only have cash on me,” Kilani told Canada’s National Observer.

After Kilani agreed to help, the cab driver asked for her debit card but didn’t let her handle the machine. The cab driver then gave Kilani someone else's card back. She noticed it wasn’t hers and demanded the correct card back.

Disturbed and annoyed, she told off the driver, who quickly put his mask on and drove away with the boy in the backseat. Kilani was able to get a video of the car’s licence plate.

Although she had never spoken in her TikTok videos before, Kilani said she wished someone had warned her and wanted to do the same for others. “I thought, 'You know what, there is no harm in explaining my situation to anyone who wants to watch and will get something out of it,'” Kilani said.

What she did not expect was that her TikTok post would garner 1.2 million views, with thousands of people sharing similar stories and experiences in the comments. “I received a lot of comments from people thanking me for the awareness,” she said.

The majority of people who viewed her TikTok video are youth aged 16 to 25, Kilani said. “I think people my age are more inclined to react because we are not familiar with using cabs. Social media is a tool we can (use to) educate and look out for each other,” she said.

Saja Kilani, 24, shared her experience of being taken in by a taxi scam on TikTok, which has over one million views, helping educate unknowing youth on the topic.

COVID-19 protocols and prepaid automated car services like Uber and Lyft make paying with a card easier, which is one of the reasons why Kilani said she didn’t think twice about helping. While the first thing an older crowd of people told Kilani was that cabs always take cash, she said: “Youth were more interested in commenting that they didn’t know that and were more thankful for sharing; that’s where the difference shows.”

Toronto police Const. Marco Ricciardi told CBC the service has seen a "pretty significant" increase in taxi scams. The force is reminding the public to be vigilant when using any type of public transport that results in debit or credit card transactions.

Since posting her video, Kilani is thankful the police have found the vehicle involved.

“I thought I was helping one young man, but I ended up helping a lot of people avoid this, which is the greatest takeaway from it,” she said.

“If you’re the driver and you’re seeing this, I bet you regret stopping me,” Kilani said in a second TikTok video.

Anyone who has information or believes they have been a victim of a taxi scam is urged to contact police at 416-808-4300 or reach out to Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477) or at www.222tips.com.

Nairah Ahmed / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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Hasn't it been a while now, that merchants aren't supposed to *touch* a customer's card?
You wouldn't hand them your wallet, and tell them, "You take out the amount you want." So why pass them the credit/debit card?
It probably amounts, ultimately, to sharing your card number. And so many cards now are "touch-and-go" enabled, so no PIN is required.