October 1, 2009 at 9:23am

INSIDE EDITION investigates scam artists prowling the airports pretending to be licensed cab drivers. INSIDE EDITION’s Senior Investigative Correspondent Matt Meagher found that taking a ride with these illegal cab drivers could be putting your safety and wallet at risk.

These men approach people as they exit some of the nation’s busiest airports, asking them if they need a “taxi.” INSIDE EDITION spotted one hustler after another preying on tourists at New York City’s JFK Airport. But it’s illegal for them to solicit passengers at the airport, and they are literally taking people for a ride.

Posing as an unsuspecting French tourist, an INSIDE EDITION undercover producer was immediately approached as he walked through baggage claim. He tells the driver he wants to go to Manhattan, which in a licensed yellow cab would be a $45 flat fee. However, the hustler says the flat fee is $65.

But the rip-off has just begun. INSIDE EDITION’s producer is handed off to a driver, who loads his luggage and hits the road. As they approach Manhattan the price goes up…to $85.

But it doesn’t stop there. As INSIDE EDITION’s producer counts out his cash, the driver demands even more. “Give me $120,” he says.

When INSIDE EDITION confronts the driver, he tries at first to deny he had done anything wrong. He then admits he had gouged him.

“I’m going to stop doing it…cause it’s against the law,” he says.

But the driver’s guilt was short-lived. Just a few weeks later, INSIDE EDITION found him was back at the airport hustling tourists.

INSIDE EDITION’s producer tells another hustler who’s approached him he needs to go from JFK Airport to La Guardia Airport – a twelve mile trip – and INSIDE EDITION followed along.

A taxi ride between JFK and La Guardia should be about $30. But this hustler says it will cost $83. When INSIDE EDITION confronted the man, he drives off without commenting.

Two other producers posing as a young foreign couple got in one hustler’s car who told them the fare to Manhattan is $97, more than twice what it’s supposed to be by regulation. He even shows them a totally bogus rate card.

And when Meagher poses as a tourist from Texas and heads for the legitimate yellow cab line at JFK, the hustlers immediately set on him like vultures.

One hustler told him the ride would cost $65. Meagher was prepared to be ripped off, but was not prepared for the 40-minute life-threatening ride. The driver ignored every traffic law imaginable and reached speeds as high as 70 miles an hour on the expressway at the height of rush hour by driving recklessly in the breakdown lane.

By the end of the wild ride, the price had climbed to $120. And he even charged Meagher for tolls that do not exist.

Meagher confronts the driver, informing him that what he’s done is illegal.

Although there were security guards and police at the airports, only once did Inside Edition see anyone of authority interfering with the bustling cab scam business. Currently illegal cab hustlers face just fines for their first offense, but that could change anytime in New York. A new law is awaiting the governor’s signature that will make the crime a misdemeanor.