How To Quickly Recognize A Uber Scam

Greedy drivers. Entitled riders. Uber imposters. There’s no limit to innovation when it comes to Uber scams, and new variations come up every day.

By imposters, we refer to identity thieves and phishing messages posing as Uber.

Some passengers will “blackmail” drivers to get free rides or unfair chargebacks.

Drivers tend to overcharge clients for services they didn’t receive.

But what type is the riskiest for Uber users? Identity theft can cost you all your bank account. Rider scams happen more often (there are around 75 million riders a day). And driver scams affect more people.

From a practical perspective, we will review scams committed by drivers and imposters. Why? Because fraudsters feel attracted to the biggest pool: paying customers.

Out of four million drivers, several thousand are working against the system. They may, for instance, damage Uber’s reputation by disguising as them:

  • By opening fake driver accounts.
  • Release fraudulent app updates packed with malware files.
  • Using Uber/Lyft decals to brand their cars as Uber drivers, when they really don’t work for the company.
  • Riders are requesting outside of Uber without knowing it. Although the brand is aware of these threats, it’s too big to detect or stop the few cases of fraud. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost us money, however.

Uber Scams Red Flags

You can’t prevent Uber scams by just looking at review ratings. The most cunning scammers deceive people without knowing they got tricked. Others are too ashamed of it, so they never report.

If you only base on reviews, how would you judge a new driver with no history? Here are some tips to help you detect fraud:

#1 The driver/vehicle doesn’t match with the description on app

Drivers may use diversion tactics to ignore the fact that they’re NOT your driver.

“Driver 1 was unavailable and had to cancel at the last minute. Uber asked me to replace him.”

“Driver 1 cannot get to your destination. But I can drive you there for a discount.”

The moment you get into a stranger’s car, they can do anything they want. Most fake drivers ask for cash upfront, which Uber drivers never do.

#2 They ask for cash

Uber cannot accept any payments outside the app unless you previously chose it. You may pay in cash, but only if it appears that way on the app.

Some riders may ask drivers to exchange their credited money for cash. If a driver offers cash, the rider promises to return the amount as tips through the app (but they don’t).

Cash with Uber leads to unnecessary complications.

#3 The driver doesn’t know you

Why would a driver offer a ride if they don’t know who they’re bringing? Then, anybody who approaches an Uber car would get a free ride.

Although users don’t need to share their names, drivers should still know the nickname with the requested trip. But here’s a catch:

  • If the rider says the name first, they won’t know if the driver knows them (it could be a fake/wrong vehicle).
  • If the driver says their name first, the rider may lie and say they are that person. The real user would be somewhere still waiting for the Uber, while the stranger gets free rides.

Have both the rider and driver show the nickname that appears on the devices. If it doesn’t match, it’s either a mistake or a scam.

#4 The driver doesn’t respond

You called an Uber and have been waiting on the location for a while. What you don’t know is, some drivers delay on purpose to make you cancel and profit from cancellation fees.

Arrive at the pick-up location as soon as you can. The app may show the driver a few meters from you, but you don’t see the car. Immediately text or call their number to know why they are late. If nobody answers the phone, the delay may be intentional.

The driver has to wait five minutes to cancel the ride. Cancel within that time to avoid paying fees. Mind that Uber may set penalties for canceling too often.

#5 Mid-ride complications

Drivers can try many excuses to make fares higher than what you agreed when you got it. Since you’re already riding, you’re less likely to complain about money or get out of the car mid-ride.

The driver’s app stops working/glitches.

  • The driver deliberately makes the ride take forever.
  • The driver asks for cash before arriving at the location.

If the ride doesn’t meet your standards, you should cancel and call another one, no matter where you leave.

If you cancel a ride with a scammer, the driver may try to “correct” your payment and charge for services they didn’t offer. 

#6 They ask you to pay tolls

Paying for tolls is as inadequate as giving cash after charging from the app. Many factors change the fare price, but road fees aren’t one of them.

When you choose a destination on the app, all fees apply automatically. That’s why riders shouldn’t ask for cash on toll locations. That money goes straight to their pocket.

Drivers may (fraudulently) charge you for tolls long after the ride when requesting a price correction. 

#7 Unreliable/new driver

Choosing new people is always risky, not only in Uber. If a driver has no rating, you can still ask some security questions or base on first impressions.

Isn’t it suspicious to find a driver near you with no history? Many scammers change driver accounts constantly to work on Uber without getting caught. If possible, choose the most seasoned driver.

If there’s no better option, remember you can try without commitments. Just cancel whenever things go wrong.

Types Of Uber Scams

Around 4 million drivers work for Uber, and 75 million active users use it regularly. Clients can choose the best nearest driver for their trip and pay a fair price.

Although scams come in all shapes and sizes, we’ll review the ones committed by drivers, which affects the majority of users.

Luckily, most passengers will leave bad reviews so you can tell scammers from legit drivers. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, one still never knows 100% how the experience will be.

#1 Fake Uber App

The first scam doesn’t start in the car but in your device. You may get a message urging you to log in to Uber via a custom link or download the most updated version outside your app store.

Even a driver could say: “To avoid confusion, make sure you install the app update, which is this.”

The goal here is to get you out of Uber.com. 

  • If you click on a link, it sends you to a fake login page on an Uber website clone.
  • If you allow unknown sources to install apps on your phone, you may install malware by mistake. The app says Uber, but has a different size or asks for too many permissions.

The fake app redirects to the real site once you’ve entered your credentials, thus hiding the phishing trick. Nothing of this has to do with the real Uber: it came from a fake message.

#2 App Glitch Scam

The logic is simple: if the app stops working, the client should be able to pay in cash. It’s not what Uber recommends, but sometimes things happen.

Well, dishonest drivers can abuse this inconvenience. In the middle of your trip, their app magically stops working/ starts glitching. The driver doesn’t know if you may have canceled the ride or edited the final destination.

So they ask for cash. Later, when you arrive, the app starts working again and shows the trip as completed. You don’t want to pay twice, so you pay the driver a $5 cancellation fee.

Since technical issues make up the excuse, passengers can’t say much when leaving a low-star review.

#3 Wrong Driver Scam

Here we present the real-life Uber imposters. These drivers will disguise their cars as if they worked for Uber, then park in a crowded pick-up area, such as airports.

Most likely, a client will approach instead of using the app and ask for the ride. At other times, the driver opens a fake driver account to show his passengers, even though he owns a branded car. In any case, you’re NOT using Uber.

Imagine being in a car with a stranger after paying cash in advance. It opens yourself to potential taxi scams. You’ll probably get nowhere and cancel before you arrive. 

The driver gets the cash and the cancellation fee. As for bad reviews, they open a new account.

#4 Cancelation Fee 

Uber invented cancelation fees to prevent scams and avoid wasting the driver’s time. But both people have found ways to take advantage of these.

For example, passengers may cancel mid-ride, hoping drivers don’t notice and keep driving to the destination.

Drivers exploit this fee too. But the trick requires patience. 

Like the wrong vehicle scam, drivers come to crowded areas to display for more clients. They may come disguised, so even though it shows that the driver is waiting at the pick-up location, you can’t see anyone. Time passes, and the driver cancels after a five-minute delay.

Perhaps you find the actual Uber car, but the driver lies. “No, I’m not your driver. I’m already waiting for someone else.” Since there are lots of people around, you believe the ruse.

Repeat it as many times as possible and earn $5 every time by doing nothing.

#5 Cash Payment Scam

Although it’s a simple confusion game, some people may still fall for it. Once you arrive at your destination, the driver insists on a cash payment because you chose that option when ordering. But you didn’t.

Perhaps:

  • You’re confused, but have no Internet to check in the app.
  • You don’t remember, so you assume it’s true.
  • You pay an Uber for your friend, but you forget to tell them you chose the app, not cash.

The driver may charge you twice, or take $5 instead if you cancel.

#6 Request Uber Ride Again

Price surges must be the only scams that Uber seems acceptable. The driver will trick the client to re-request the ride with a changed price, and Uber makes it the client’s fault.

Here’s how price surges work:

  • Demand increases due to external factors such as special events, rush hours, or weather.
  • If the price remained the same, Uber would run out of drivers.
  • Uber raises the price on demand to 1.8x-2.5x to keep it always available.

Drivers may ‘play with trading’ here as well. If you call an Uber at one price, and it doubles by the time they arrive at the location, they may ask you to re-arrange.

Of course, they have an excuse to make you pay more.

  • The app is glitching.
  • I don’t see any drives registered.
  • There’s something wrong with your request.

Those who don’t know about surge pricing may pay twice as much for the same service. 

#7 Vehicle Upgrade

Some lazy drivers think they don’t get paid enough to deal with picky passengers. Although they could be right, they solve the problem the wrong way: lying, for example.

Some drivers want to scam, and if the passengers are too “fraud-proof,” they get frustrated and make a faulty fare revision. 

  • They exaggerate the service they gave you (e.g., Premium fares).
  • They charge you for Uber XL, but you were using the average plan.
  • They credit you imaginary fees.

If you bring too many people or luggage, the driver may upgrade your service. If they do it with no reason nor consent, make some photos when you ride and open a dispute at Uber.

#8 Fake Cleaning Fees

Here’s a common scam in the rentals world: they charge you for damages you didn’t make. Perhaps you have some of the faults, but they exaggerate it. They make it an opportunity to blame you for other scratches that happened before you came.

Uber drivers do it too, especially when driving “loud crowds,” or passengers who bring food or pets. If you look like someone who may have caused it— and can’t prove it wrong— they will charge you unfair fees.

Take a few photos of the passenger seat. Use them if they blame you for the wrong reason.

#9 Pseudo Identity Theft

  • When you create your first Uber account, you get an email: “New device sign-in.” If you log in from other devices, Uber emails you to confirm it was you.
  • When you register your phone number, you get an SMS: your Uber code is this.
  • When you forget your password, you request an email to recover it.

All of these are automatic security messages requested by the user. If you ever get any of these without request, then someone else did: probably, someone trying to hack into your account.

Now, scammers can pose as automatic Uber responders. They might want to make you think of identity theft, so you feel nervous and click their account recovery link. 

The link leads to a fake Uber site where you log in and “restore” your account. “You’ve updated your account security successfully.” It means the phisher has got your information.

There’s no identity theft attack, and if there was, you should update security directly using the app. 

#10 Claim Your Prize!

Most Uber users don’t even know these exist. Every once in a while, a Uber imposter may send you a fake reward for random reasons: impeccable rating, no customer complaints, or no cancellations in X months. 

Perhaps, it’s an Uber driver who shares with excitement how he won thousands of dollars. He encourages us to do the same and send you the link.

To claim your fake thousands of dollars, you either pay a fee or share your private data on a phishing site. 

We’ve created a guide for unexpected prize scams to cover these situations. 

How To Prevent Uber Scams

Whenever there’s an opportunity, you’ll find people trying to take it. The many scams we’ve seen don’t make Uber necessarily a risky choice. Scams are relative to your preparation.

#1 Always Use The Uber App

Whether you’re picking an Uber or receiving an email message, always default to the application. 

  • If you need to update security, it could be a phishing scam.
  • If you need to pay in cash, it could be a payment scam.
  • If you don’t verify the driver, it could be the wrong one.

Don’t see it only as a way to make riding easier: the app also protects you against scams: your best tool.

#2 Check Updated Reviews

One may think that experienced drivers cannot scam you. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have gathered so many reviews and stayed on service for so long. If so, then why are their last reviews terrible? A bunch of low-star comments may not seem a big deal compared to the hundreds of five stars.

You may ignore that some scammers target Uber drivers and steal their identities. If the recent reviews are negative, you should trust them and pick another vehicle. Also, remember to check the rater’s rating.

#3 Anticipate to pricing surges

Bad weather? Rush hours? Events? Rush no more: Scheduled Rides are finally a thing! You can book Ubers in advance, from 30 minutes to 30 days.

If you’d like to save a few bucks for a future trip, pay attention to the fare price. If you happen to find it low enough, you can reserve it for a discount. Although booking fees apply, you definitely won’t be paying 1.8x to 2.5x more.

#4 Sense of urgency

Lazy drivers will try to make you cancel rather than driving to the location. They choose the wrong road and take you for a ride to, well, nowhere. 

Drivers are more prone to take advantage of solo riders who don’t know where they’re going, such as tourists. You can make up an identity and say that your friends are waiting at the location. You need to get there A.S.A.P. You may discourage dishonest drivers from playing with your time.

The Bottom Line

Remember that Uber stands for the best service for its riders. You don’t need to cope with an unreliable driver: just cancel anytime. Many others will be happy to drive you with five-star service in mind.

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