Uber has quietly initiated a campaign to warn riders about fake drivers. About time they did.
Kidnapping. Sexual assault. Robbery. Uber and Lyft driver-impostors have been wreaking havoc on unsuspecting passengers for years. Our campaign lists 63 news reports of fake Uber and Lyft drivers harming riders.
Lately, there are more fakes than ever. During July, six news reports surfaced about Uber impostors hurting passengers—most involving alleged sexual assault or robbery.
These fakes vividly illustrate why it’s crucial to rigorously background-check actual Uber and Lyft drivers: Drivers control the car and its occupant. Posing as a driver perfectly enables criminals to locate victims, secure them, and transport them to a different location to avoid getting caught.
Fake Uber and Lyft drivers who are thieves seem to operate in pairs. Typically, the second person is riding shotgun and somehow subdues or intimidates the passenger sitting in back.
As riders, men have been somewhat immune to God-awful experiences in Uber and Lyft cars. Not so with fakes. A crew of two women have repeatedly robbed men and women in New Orleans. Now, maybe they’ve franchised in Atlanta. Chicago has also repeatedly been the scene of fake Uber and Lyft drivers robbing unsuspecting passengers.
How do fake Uber and Lyft drivers find victims? Would-be riders are probably obvious. They are likely standing on a street corner, late at night, obviously waiting, staring intently at their phone. Maybe these riders are inebriated or just in a hurry to get home so they don’t compare the driver’s name, face, vehicle and license plate info with what’s provided by the app. Maybe the reason why so many men have been victims of fakes is they are less vigilant about double-checking these items.
Another reason passengers climb into a fake Uber may be to save a buck. Fake Uber drivers—or real Uber drivers doing cash deals outside of the app—have become so prevalent at New York’s JFK and La Guardia Airports that Uber itself had to issue an advisory to passengers: Don’t do cash trips!
My God, we agree. Don’t arrange cash trips with Uber and Lyft drivers. There’s no insurance coverage whatsoever on these rides. Cash trips are like time bombs.
So, how are Uber and Lyft at fault for impostors?
First off, the “ridesharing” business model lends itself to fakes. It doesn’t employ vehicles with hard-to-falsify external markings. Fake drivers can just print out the Uber or Lyft logo. Undercover New York cops may be posing as Uber and Lyft drivers by doing just this. (Better tell Uber’s anti-impostor effort).
Maybe the fake-Uber-driver cops are trying to interdict the NYC Uber-branded fentanyl and heroin ring?
Second, public policy-wise, taxicabs have long been considered a form of (or extension of) public transportation. Taxicab drivers are publicly licensed. But Uber and Lyft drivers are not. Uber and Lyft go out of their way to protect drivers’ anonymity; the corporations have repeatedly refused to share driver identities with cities. Thus, unlike taxicabs, there is no local regulator or police officer on the street who can check a license.
Meaning: There’s no way for Uber and Lyft impostors to get caught by the cops or any other local regulatory agency with a street presence.
That responsibility now rests with passengers.