Fake Uber Driver Scam Hurts Us All

If you haven’t heard this scary story yet, buckle up. It’s frightening for passengers. And what’s more, it makes driving Uber that much more of a challenge.

Hi, this is Scott, and first I’ll share the story as it was told on Reddit recently by an Uber driver in Arizona. Then I’ll give you my analysis of what this means for good Uber drivers AND how this could play out in the future for both Uber and Lyft.

Here’s the original story:

My last ride I picked up a white female mid 40s at the Scottsdale fashion Square in Scottsdale Arizona. When I picked her up she told me that a black SUV had pulled up next to her and said are you waiting for an Uber? She said yes, he said get in.

She said no I’m waiting for Brandon, he said I know he told me to come and pick you up he can’t make it. I immediately told her that that is not true, no driver sends a “buddy “to pick up their fair under any circumstances unless it’s another official Uber driver because the previous fair got canceled.

I asked her if she had a description she said that he was a big husky man but that she couldn’t see him because his vehicle was pitch black inside so she couldn’t make out the ethnicity.

But I just wanted to put it out there as a safety warning, or if anybody else has had this activity in the Scottsdale area or the surrounding cities.

Once I told her who I was and confirmed my identity she got in my vehicle and then proceeded to tell me that he was very adamant about her getting in the car and I said yes you’re very lucky that you didn’t get in!

I again told her that she has every right to identify the Uber driver by asking for identification, also asking to see the Uber app on his phone operating with a name confirmation.

I have seen a rise in police impersonators, Uber and lift impersonators since Covid usually people looking to get cash by robbing their victims.

Be safe out there!

Fake Uber Driver Scam: My Thoughts

Heaven forbid if something bad had happened. Most importantly, none of us want people to be abducted. Secondly, it’d be all over the news. Because you know the news doesn’t report the 99.99% of safe Uber trips but it’ll sensationalize the rare horrific tragedy.

And the above story doesn’t even necessarily directly INVOLVE Uber! But you darn well know “Uber” will be in the headline. Even though it’s some maniac POSING as an Uber driver in some other vehicle.

Remember, passengers take Uber in large part because they are familiar with Uber — not you personally — though they probably get some reassurance if you have a high rating.

Uber is so famous it’s a verb. It’s easy to forget that it wasn’t that long ago there was no such sentence as, “I’m not taking my car, I’m going to Uber there.”

Damage to Uber’s reputation as safe transportation makes the job harder for drivers. It could also impact pay. Because if people perceive Uber as a safety risk then obviously there will be lowered demand. Lower demand means less trips for drivers of course.

In addition, Uber might lower prices to bring back customers. And that too means lower pay for drivers.

So it’s mega-important that Uber maintains its image as a SAFE transportation option.

It’s easy to say, Oh passengers should be “street-smart” and check the license plate and the driver’s face and so on. But putting the burden on the customer is not good business.

Yes, passengers SHOULD do this. But as you know, some customers are taking Uber because they’re drunk and not thinking clearly. Others are young adults and not careful with such things.

I have to admit even I took a risk as a passenger with a somewhat common Uber scam.

I had returned home from an exhaustingly long flight. It was really tough to get an Uber that night at the airport. Finally, he arrives. The right car. Not the person shown on the app. Hmm.

So I ask, what’s the deal?

I got some story from the driver that his cousin is sick and he’s driving for him today. Sure, my bullspit detector was ringing but I was tired and might’ve made a bad decision — but I rolled the dice.

I turned out just fine. (I’m guessing the driver couldn’t get approved to drive and was using a friend’s account or some such thing.) My point is, this kind of behavior needs to be stomped out because it hurts Uber’s reputation with customers. And fewer customers means less pay for drivers.

Opportunity for Uber or Lyft to Be Different and Better

At this point, at least in my area, Uber and Lyft are pretty interchangeable from a passenger’s perspective. I’ve found it’s the same drivers. So I open both apps and whichever gives the lower price is the service I’ll use.

That’s bad for Uber and Lyft if they can only compete on price. It’s their own fault really. If one of those services, for instance, paid the best drivers a premium, they’d become known as the “higher-class” of service.

In any case, either Uber or Lyft has a real shot to be known as the safe option. Imagine if Lyft became famous as the “super safe version of Uber.” Well, certain segments of the population will really value this!

There are plenty of young women, for example, who aren’t comfortable riding in a vehicle with a stranger late at night.

How to Make Uber and Lyft More Safe

I was born and raised in New York City and in taxi cab culture. It boggles my mind how Uber and Lyft haven’t already straight-up copied all of the best elements of taxis.

It’s very simple. I think this would improve passenger safety, and as a result make life better for the vast majority of Uber drivers.

When you sit in the back seat of a New York City taxi, you see a clear photo of the driver’s face along with his or her name, and a license number.

Also, it’s tough to pretend to be a taxi because taxis are famously bright yellow vehicles and have a prominent TAXI sign on the roof.

Not impossible, but this eliminates scumbags who on a whim decide to swoop up a woman by pretending to be her rideshare driver.

So two things I’d encourage Uber and Lyft to implement:

1 – give ALL drivers an Uber or Lyft sign to display in the windshield. Make it FREE for drivers and require it to be used

2 – give ALL drivers a sign with their photo and name and require it to be displayed in the back to the passenger

3 – if they can’t require passengers to upload a photo of themselves, give each passenger a $5 credit as an incentive for sharing their photo to help drivers feel safer

Also, in these days of masks, require all drivers and passengers to briefly say hello with masks OFF while 6 feet away, if for nothing else than to verify you are who you say.

I love the Lyft – ADT partnership. They could add a silent way to report that a driver is not the right person or a passenger is not the right person.

Before we blame passengers for not being careful, yes they should be, however, part of the appeal of a car-for-hire is that it’s easy and safe.

It’s almost a New York City rite-of-passage to get drunk as a young adult and your friends throw you in a cab that somehow magically takes you home.

I’d like to highlight this comment by Uber driver Derperlicious (great name haha!) that was buried on Reddit but I think sums it up:

Yeah she didn’t even look… she jumped into the first car that pulled up. And used to happen to a lot of people down in the bar district… people just hopping into any car that showed up.

And I worked that town, right after that [terrible tragedy], people were hyper aware, double checking everything… until they got drunk. I’d drive people to frat and sorority parties, people stand 10 feet away ‘say my name”, and “who are you” and then still check my plates. After the party, people just hopped right in… half of them not even my pax.

Uber and Lyft drivers are saving lives. I don’t say that as an exaggeration. I absolutely mean it!

Drunk people would be driving. Instead, they’re taking Uber and Lyft. To keep that going, passengers need to feel completely confident in the safety of the service.

– Scott @ RSG