Driver AdviceDriving Experience

Top 10 Ways That Uber and Lyft Passengers Are Gaming The System (And How To Prevent It)

By October 29, 2014July 30th, 2020124 Comments


    Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in the past six months have taken place in my car as a rideshare driver.  I’ve met artists, architects, celebrities and even a former playboy bunny.  But even after all that time and all those rides, I still haven’t had one experience that I would qualify as terrible or horrible.  There have definitely been some weird ones and some very interesting ones but nothing that I couldn’t handle.

    But like with anything in life, there are always going to be a few bad apples that you need to watch out for.  Here are just a few of the ways I’ve found that passengers are trying to game the system.

    Fetch App

    Related article: Essential gear for rideshare drivers

    Dropping The Pin Outside Of A Surge Zone

    It didn’t take long for passengers to figure out this one.  Since surge and prime time zones are very localized, one street could be 2x and another could be 1.5x or even regular pricing.  What some passengers will do is move the pin around until they get out of a surge zone and then make their request.  At that point, they’ll either call the driver and let them know their real address or wait for the driver to pick them up and tell them “the GPS must be wrong”.

    I’ve been noticing this hack with greater frequency over the past few months yet the TNC’s have done nothing about it.  Last week, Lyft finally made a small change that will require passengers to confirm their address when their dropped pin doesn’t match their GPS so we’ll see if that helps.

    How to Avoid: I have a standard short cut text that I send after every request.  During surge times, I’ll use a second text that asks them to confirm their address and sometimes I’ll even call them depending on how far away the request is.  If I get to the pick-up destination and then discover they’re not there, I will wait 5 minutes and then cancel as a no-show to make sure that I get the cancellation fee.  I’ll also turn on my other app at this point and try to get another request during that 5 minute waiting period.

    Airport Pick-Up

    This is a slight variation of the above hack but since there is a geo-fence around some airports, a lot of passengers have figured out that you can just drop the pin outside of the geo-fence (where lots of drivers are waiting) and then request that the driver come into the terminal and get you.

    There is no risk for the passenger with this strategy but the driver could face fines and possible impound if they get busted.  Lyft and Uber have been very good about covering fees in this situation but I’ve heard that they are going to slowly phase out that policy.  So drivers beware.

    Related Article: How To Get An Uber Airport Ride At LAX

    How to Avoid: Don’t go into the airports (unless pick-ups are ok at your local airport) to pick anyone up.  Let the passenger know why you can’t come get them, ask them to cancel the ride and take a shuttle outside the airport (and don’t forgot to tell them to tip the shuttle driver a $1 or $2 for the ride 🙂

    Free Rides For Days

    There aren’t a lot of passengers doing this one or if they are, they aren’t talking about it.  But here’s how the strategy works: Since Uber gives existing passengers $30 for referring new passengers, these ‘Uber hackers’ will use an app like Burner that creates a temporary phone number and then create a new account based off of that.  So the Uber hacker will use account A to refer account B and then take a ride with account B (that ride will be free up to $30).  Once he completes the ride with account A, account B will now be credited with another $30 free ride.

    You can rinse and repeat this ‘hack’ as many times as you’d like but Uber definitely has people on the look out for this.  I know a couple people who have been busted trying to use this trick so along with the ethical issues of doing something like this, it also probably won’t last very long.

    Squeezing In 5 Or More

    This is one of the most common ways passengers try to take advantage of drivers.  I’ve had it happen to me on countless occasions and although it’s tough to say no and not seem like an a-hole, it’s never worth the risk to take more than four passengers.  In fact, I can’t think of any situation in which it would make sense to do so.

    How to Avoid: If this happens to you, just let the passenger know about the associated liability issues and tell them you can wait while they call another car.  Use the ‘Can Do’ attitude that Rez discussed in our podcast interview.

    Lyftjacking Or Uberjacking

    I’ve read lots of stories about this one happening to unsuspecting drivers and it basically involves a passenger trying to steal someone else’s Lyft or Uber ride.  These ‘hackers’ will sometimes just get into your car if they see trade dress and let you know where they’re going.  5 minutes later you’ll get a call from your real passenger asking “Where the F are you going?!”  At this point, you’re in a tough situation because you’ve already started the trip on the wrong person and now you have someone in your car who you’re going to have to let out.  Just make sure that you’re as diplomatic as possible if this happens and e-mail support ASAP once you end the ride.

    How to Avoid: I always ask the passenger to confirm their name instead of saying, “Hey are you Steve?”  Especially during surge times or at the end of an event when there are lots of people looking for their rides, it’s imperative that you find the right person.  I also turn on my flashers and try to make it easy for the right passenger to find me.  

    Related Article: How To Find Your Passenger At The End Of a Concert Or Special Event

    No Cash, Can’t Tip

    This hack doesn’t happen on Lyft, but I’ve had several Uber passengers mention how they’d love to tip me but they have no cash.  I’m sure a lot of them genuinely want to tip but I have a hunch that some are just saying this to make it seem like they’re not cheap.

    How to Avoid: I actually found a pretty good way to combat this using a Square Reader.  It charges around 3% and allows you to take cash tips on your smart phone.  Any time someone offers a tip but doesn’t have cash, I let them know about this option.

    Uber/Lyft Race

    There are some passengers who will call an Uber and a Lyft at the same time and take whichever car arrives first.  I know because this has happened to me before as a driver.  I pulled up at a location and saw passengers getting into another driver’s car and shortly after, the ride was cancelled.

    Uber and Lyft need to do a better job of punishing riders who cancel or abuse the system.  I don’t think there are many passengers that do this but it would be nice to see some repercussions for people who take advantage of drivers like this.

    Canceling A Trip During The Ride

    I’ve never personally experienced this but I’ve talked to many drivers who have had passengers cancel the trip halfway through or even as soon as the ride begins.  If drivers aren’t looking at their phone, then they might not even know that this has happened until they get to the destination.

    How To Avoid: I always use the GPS on my phone to navigate even if I am pretty sure where we’re going.  That also means that I’ll see a cancellation notification/text every time I glance at the phone.  Just make sure that you don’t do it while you’re driving.  

    Not A Real Lyft Line

    With the addition of Lyft Line, this is a new passenger scam that I’ve been seeing here and there.  Basically, passengers that are in the same group will each request a Lyft Line so that the fare is cheaper and then one passenger cancels or uses a free ride code.  Obviously this is not really how Lyft Line is supposed to work, since it’s supposed to match riders who don’t know each other but happen to be going in the same direction.

    This hack doesn’t really bother me too much as a driver since I’m going to get paid anyways but I think Lyft will eventually start cracking down on this.

    The Uber Recruiter/Canceler

    I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this shady tactic from Uber as a Lyft driver but it’s also tough to tell since there can be a lot of cancellations in any one given night.  According to Lyft though, Uber recruiters have ordered and cancelled over 5,000 Lyft rides since October.

    Obviously this tactic frustrates drivers who lose time and money driving to requests that are then canceled.  It also deprives riders who are looking for a ride since this scam means less available drivers on the road.

    How To Avoid: I find that most cancellations happen within the first minute or two so I usually hang out for a minute or two before moving on to the pick-up request.  You won’t be able to do much about someone that cancels once you get there but if it’s after the 5 minute wait time you should at least get compensated with a $5-$10 cancellation fee.

    (Big thanks to everyone that helped me during my research for this article: Ted, Simon and a few others 🙂

    Drivers, what hacks/tricks have you seen passengers using to game the system?  Would you use any of these yourself or does it cross the line for you?

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    Harry Campbell

    Harry Campbell

    I'm Harry, the owner and founder of The Rideshare Guy Blog and Podcast. I used to be a full-time engineer but now I'm a rideshare blogger! I write about my experience driving for Uber, Lyft, and other services and my goal is to help drivers earn more money by working smarter, not harder.