People who use 'pirate' taxis could be putting their lives at risk as well as threatening the jobs of licensed cabbies, Barnsley taxi drivers have warned.
Barnsley Hackney Carriage Association says unlicensed taxis are on the rise in the town with an estimated 20 to 30 circulating, especially at weekends.
They advertise their services on Facebook with messages like "I'm taxi-ing tonight" or "taxi-ing over Christmas. Book now to avoid disappointment." Some have been doing it for a couple of years.
The Chronicle understands cowboy drivers are often on benefits and topping up their income through taxi driving. Others are supplementing low paid jobs.
Mark Cocks, of the hackney carriage association, said the pirate drivers used their own cars.
"It's often young men and women with nice cars - their insurance is high and they have to find a way of paying for it."
He stressed these drivers were illegal and put lives at risk as they did not have the required public liability insurance.
Private car insurance for young people costs between £1,800 to £2,000 a year, while a legitimate cabbie might pay around £18,000 a year.
Mr Cocks said licensed taxi drivers paid thousands each year in public liability insurance - and were insured for up to £10 million.
If pirate drivers had an accident and a passenger was injured - or worse - they would not get compensation.
"I hope to God the police will not be knocking on someone's door at Christmas and saying someone's son or daughter has been killed in one of these cars," he said.
"I know the police recently caught one person taxi-ing in his own car and he was found to be three times over the drink drive limit."
He added that pirate drivers were also not police checked.
"Single females face the threat of rape or sexual assaults from these drivers."
He urged people to only use legitimate taxis and if they were unsure to ask to see the driver's badge, which should say 'Barnsley Metropolitan Borough licensed hackney/private hire driver.'