The following warning was taken verbatim from the U.S. State Department, Ecuador Country Specific web site as of October, 2011, about recent problems with foreigners and taxis in Ecuador.
Secuestro Express” Taxi Assaults: Carjackings have occurred in both rural and urban areas. Robberies and assaults involving taxis present a significant safety concern, most specifically in Guayaquil and Manta, but increasingly in Quito since 2009. Foreigners have been and are continuing to be targeted specifically in a particularly dangerous type of crime known as a “secuestro express.” Shortly after a rider enters a taxi, the vehicle is intercepted by armed accomplices of the taxi driver, who is normally complicit in the crime. The accomplices enter the vehicle, threaten passengers with weapons (typically guns and/or knives, but also more recently, pepper spray or scopolamine, a “date rape drug”), rob passengers of their personal belongings and then drive to various ATMs and attempt to withdraw money using the victims’ debit cards. In some instances, victims of a secuestro express were beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted. In one particularly brutal incident, a U.S. citizen was burned with an aerosol can and lighter to try and extract a pin number for their debit card.
If you find yourself involved in an express kidnapping and/or robbery, it is best to be non-confrontational and cooperate with the perpetrator. Nothing material is as valuable as your life. Following a criminal incident, U.S. citizens are encouraged to immediately file a “denuncia,” or “police report,” with the local police and to inform the American Citizens Services Office at the U.S. Embassy in Quito or U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil.
To lower your risk of being a victim of carjacking or “secuestro express,” drive with your doors locked and windows rolled up. In the Guayaquil area, where 842 “secuestro express” cases were reported in 2010, it is recommend that you use radio-operated taxi companies such as those listed on the U.S. Consulate General’s website instead of hailing taxis on the street (see more information under “Crime: Guayaquil and Coastal Ecuador” below). In areas other than Guayaquil consider using radio-operated taxi companies or taxis associated with hotels. If you must hail a taxi on the street, increase your security by seeking out taxis that are officially registered and in good condition. Registered taxis in Ecuador are usually yellow, display matching unit numbers on the windshields and the side doors, each printed on an orange placard, feature a taxi cooperative name on the side, and are identified with an orange license plate.