Uber, the world's most popular ride-sharing platform, grew out of a simple idea—the ability to find a ride simply by tapping a button on your phone. Since its launch by entrepreneurs Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in 2009, Uber has dominated the ride-sharing industry, taking in 68% of that business in the U.S. alone. Today, 93 million customers worldwide use the Uber app, and 3.5 million drivers serve these customers—which is probably why Uber scams have become so common.
While Uber is primarily known for its ride-sharing, in 2015, it introduced its restaurant food delivery app, known as Uber Eats. Uber Eats ranks as one of the most widely used food delivery apps.
The convenience of pressing a button and ordering a ride or your next meal appeals to more than just Uber's vast customer base. Unfortunately, it makes it easy for scammers to trick unsuspecting victims.
Whether you use Uber or Uber Eats, these are the most common scams to look out for.
You order a ride through the Uber app and wait for the car to arrive, but it doesn't. So you're forced to cancel the ride, which causes you to incur cancellation fees. Later, you might be dismayed to find out that you were still charged for the ride that never arrived.
When you arrive at your destination, your driver will insist that you selected a cash payment. You may believe you chose this option accidentally and pay the driver in cash. However, you'll end up incurring a cancellation fee if the driver claims you canceled just before picking you up.
In another version of this scam, the driver mentions that the app is not working at the moment, and you'll need to pay cash. You pay the driver in cash but find out later that your credit card was charged anyway, resulting in a double charge.
In this scam, you find out a day or two after your ride that the driver is charging you for cleaning fees or damages you supposedly caused to the vehicle. Of course, you know that you didn't make a mess or damage the car, but it's the driver's word against yours, and you may be hit with an expensive bill.
During the ride, the driver will ask you for additional fees to cover some unexpected expenses. For example, sometimes they'll ask for you to pay for tolls, or they might also take a strange, longer route to increase fares. Or they might not end the ride when you exit the car, which means you'll continue to be charged for additional mileage that you didn't travel.
In this scam involving the food delivery app, customers order food and the order appears to go through. However, the app doesn't update the order status, and eventually, the driver cancels the order. The customer ends up being charged for the order, but the driver takes off with the food.
If you're waiting for an Uber ride at a common Uber pickup area, such as an airport, you might inadvertently get into the wrong car. Fake drivers know how easy it is to mistake one car for another when you're in a rush. Sometimes they'll ask you to cancel the Uber ride you booked and pay cash. Or the driver could have even more dangerous intentions that could threaten your life and safety.
You may receive emails that appear to originate from Uber requesting that you reset your password using a link. However, when you click the link, you'll end up on a malicious website set up by scammers. If you try to reset your password as directed, scammers will gain access to your account to score free rides.
Uber drivers can be unwitting victims of scams, too. In one of the most popular scams, Uber drivers receive a phone call that appears to come from the ride-sharing company, offering them a bonus for excellent driving services. The person on the phone asks questions about the driver's account and banking information so they can transfer the bonus money to the account.
Unfortunately, the bonus never shows up. Instead, the scammer logs into the driver's Uber account fraudulently and either steals the fares, or gains access to the bank account so they can make fraudulent charges.
As enjoyable and convenient as it can be to use Uber and Uber Eats, remember that you're ultimately dealing with a stranger. Awareness can help you get ahead of potential scams. Take these steps to avoid Uber and Uber Eats scams:
If you find yourself a victim of an Uber or Uber Eats scam, here's how you can attempt to recover your funds and report the activity.
If you believe an Uber driver has acted unprofessionally or tried to scam you, you can report the driver directly to Uber. You can also contact Uber if you think you were unfairly charged a cancellation fee or incurred any other charges you believe are fraudulent.
Provide as much detail as possible explaining how the driver acted and why this violates Uber's policies. Since it's usually the driver's word against yours, you may need to follow up with additional emails and phone calls to plead your case.
If Uber refuses to refund fraudulent charges, your next step is to contact your financial institution. Explain the situation and ask for the charge(s) to be reviewed. Sometimes, they will return the funds if you have a strong enough argument for fraud.
It can be extremely unsettling to end up in a car with a driver who's pretending to work for Uber or with a driver who does work for Uber but has bad intentions. If you feel that you're in a dangerous situation, you can request to end the ride immediately.
Another option is to call 911 by tapping the Emergency Button located in your Uber app. When you call emergency services from the Uber app, the app provides you with your real-time location and trip details that you can share with the dispatcher.
If your Uber driver is a no-show, be sure you follow up and make sure you're not charged a cancellation fee—you could be falling into a scammer's trap.
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