For as little as $2,000, it was revealed, members of the criminal underworld are able to programme radios to hack into the communication system used by hackney carriage companies.
Gunmen reportedly intercept calls made by the intended victims to the taxi companies, learn the point of pick-up and pounce on the unsuspecting passengers.
Evidence of this was seen less than two weeks ago when gunmen were able to zoom in on a call made by a woman while she was on the grounds of a well-known taxi company.
Sources from the company told Loop News that, after intercepting the call, gunmen went to the taxi company, picked up the woman and took her to the Chinese Cemetery along Waltham Park Road in Kingston where they robbed her of her valuables.
Willard Costly, president of the Hackney Carriage Association, the organization that represents taxi companies that use the two-way radios when contacted, said he was not aware of the development, but said, as a technician, he believed such acts were possible.
“I cannot say that it is impossible; if a person can buy the radio then they can go and find means and ways to programme the radio, so I know that that would be possible… but to say it is happening, I would not be able to say so,” Costly told Loop News.
Officials from Spectrum Management Authority (SMA), the national regulator for the radio frequency spectrum in Jamaica, also acknowledged that the development was possible.
Peter Bartley, representative from SMA told Loop News that act was possible.
“Yes, it is technically possible if you have the technical knowledge because these radios are available online… so, if you have the money and the technical knowledge, they could be programmed that way,” SMA official Peter Bartley told Loop.
Radio experts explained that there were encoding schemes on the radios to ensure that only radios using a specific coding scheme could hear communications on a particular frequency, but there could be cases where radios were stolen and persons with knowledge were able to look at the security set-up that the set of radios were using.
Experts also noted that persons with inside knowledge of the organization could be releasing the data.
But with the concerns being raised, officials of several taxi companies are advising customers that they could make their own checks to ensure they were taking legitimate taxi cabs.
A manager at popular company On time Taxi Service said passengers should never try to board taxis that are not marked.
“Do no board the cab unless the logo is on the vehicle,” the On Time Taxi official told Loop.
Officials from another company said customers should always try to call back taxi companies they called to verify the name of the driver coming to pick them up and the license plate for vehicles.