A Penticton cab company says it lost half of its usual business after the phone number on its Google page was changed to the dispatch line for its competitor.
Drivers at Penticton’s Eco Taxi became concerned when the phone suddenly stopped ringing for rides in mid-February.
“We sit there and we wonder ‘Why are we waiting for two hours and nobody’s getting a call?’ and yet I see the other cars going and coming?” Lance Farmer, a driver with Eco Taxi, said.
Eco Taxi’s owner Balraj Gill said he was tipped off about the hack when a customer called in confused.
The person asked why Eco Taxi’s phone number was dialing Courtesy Cabs, Gill said.
“We find out our Google page has been hacked,” Gill said.
Instead of listing the number for Eco Taxi, the Google page displayed Courtesy Cab’s direct line.
Then, a few days later, Gill alleges he got a text from a disgruntled ex-employee demanding cash.
“He told me, ‘If you want a Google page and emails back, I need money tonight,'” Gill said. “I said ‘no.'”
After the employee left, Gill said he changed his passwords but not his security questions, which the ex-employee had helped set up.
It was a costly error.
“It was like, anger, frustration and helplessness,” Farmer said. “Because what can you do about it?”
“It’s been the pits for us,” he added. “We’re cutting back because all of a sudden there’s not enough calls coming in, so some drivers weren’t coming in to work.”
Courtesy Cabs owner Amar Kahlon said the matter is an internal dispute at Eco Taxi.
He said he’s frustrated that his company has been dragged into it and plans to speak with a lawyer.
“We have nothing to do with this,” Kahlon said. “We don’t want to take any responsibility that somebody calls Eco Taxi and the number goes to us.”
Kahlon added that he has instructed his dispatchers to give out the right number if somebody calls expecting Eco Taxi.
Gill said he’s now waiting for Google to physically mail him a pass code, so he can prove the company is his.
In the meantime, he’s reminding other business owners to consider updating their security questions.
Gill contacted police but said they told him they couldn’t help.
RCMP did not respond to request for comment.