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Very Frequent Fliers Reveal Common Rideshare Scams

Very Frequent Fliers Reveal Common Rideshare Scams
Jeff Edwards

Although the overwhelming number of rideshare transactions go off without a hitch, knowing the signs to be on the lookout for can help to head off trouble before an Uber or Lyft driver is tempted to take advantage of a traveler far from home. A check of the Flyertalk forum finds that the myriad of ways riders can be conned are almost as creative as they are varied. It also turns out that where you are in the world can also make a difference in what kind of shakedowns are most likely.


Popular Uber Scams

The Phantom Tollbooth

Here’s what happened to one FlyerTalker:

I took a POOL trip on Wednesday to SF. $15. He didn’t pick anyone else up. Felt kind of bad for the driver, but so it goes, not my problem.

At some point last night/early this AM, UBER sends me an updated receipt with an extra $15 for tolls/surcharges/etc. There’s a $4 bridge toll at the hour of my trip. I inquired, and the reply was the “I-80 Surcharge $15.” This is a load of crap, because there’s no such surcharge.

And, they’re not alone. Several other rideshare users in the forum reported the same issue, and a lot of back and forth with Uber (I went 4 rounds with UBER – including UBER telling me it could be from Toll, HOV use, etc. All a load of crap, because the route doesn’t permit under 3 in the HOV lane at any price during HOV hours, and anyone can use during non-hours) to get the phantom tollbooth charges refunded.

But, one FlyerTalker who drives for Uber added, phantom tollbooth charges are not always due to unscrupulous drivers: I’m not familiar with SFO tool charges, so I can’t comment on that, however, I can say that I myself have been shortchanged on toll fees as well. And they also had a fair deal of back and forth with Uber in order to be reimbursed.

But, whether you’re the victim of a misapplied toll or a driver who knows that it’s hard for you to dispute a toll, it pays to pay extra attention to your bill (and your route) when you’re taking an Uber in New York City, San Francisco, or other toll-heavy cities.

How to avoid it

  • Never tell the driver you are from out of town.
  • If you aren’t familiar with the route, research the journey on a map (or ask a local).
  • Always double-check the final bill for accuracy.
  • If the rideshare company won’t reverse the charges, then consider appealing to your credit card company.

Vomit Fraud

One particularly prolific and long-standing Uber driver scam has been around for years. In fact, the Miami Herald first warned of the shady practice in July of 2018. This con involves Uber drivers fraudulently claiming that riders were responsible for causing a mess in a vehicle, allowing the driver to collect a $150 cleaning fee charged to the rider’s account.

How Very Frequent Flyers Avoid this Scam

  • Take a picture of the vehicle interior before and after the ride.
  • When possible, avoid using rideshare services late at night or from nightlife hotspots.
  • Pay close attention to driver ratings – there is usually a reason drivers are consistently receiving low scores from riders.

Uber Scams

Cash Please

Several FlyerTalkers traveling in the Dominican Republic have reported a similar scam: They request a ride and Uber quotes them a set price. But then the driver “accidentally” cancels the ride somewhere along the journey. Then they demand cash–and, in one case, wouldn’t let their passenger get their bags unless they pay. And often, you’ll pay more than double.

In this canceled ride case, “Long story short, after we show up to my house, he demanded cash or he wouldn’t open the back of the van for me to get my bags. To which I gave him 10 USD. No email receipt or anything, so I figure ‘OK Uber didn’t charge me twice. An hour later I get an email from Uber receipts showing a charge of 1603 pesos. The mother fracker drove all over the Santo Domingo with the meter running.

I, of course, contacted Uber right away, who refunded the 2nd trip (not the first canceled one) and gave me a credit of 550 pesos which is about 10 dollars.”

How Very Frequent Flyers Avoid this Scam

  • Don’t let your guard down. One FlyerTalker reported that this happened when they let the driver know that this was their first Uber from the airport. Another let slip that their internet wasn’t working (which means the canceled ride would be harder to catch).
  • Never let the driver reset the ride or charge cash for any reason.
  • Always double-check the final bill for accuracy.
  • Check the app after the ride is over to make sure the driver isn’t still trying to “take you for a ride.”

Very Frequent Flyers Uber Scams

The Artificial Surge

A practice reportedly occurring on a regular basis among Uber and Lyft drivers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) could more accurately be described as a conspiracy rather than a run-of-the-mill flimflam. According to Washington, DC ABC News-affiliateWJLA, Uber drivers in the nation’s capital are manipulating the apps to trigger surge pricing by briefly logging off the system en masse – particularly just prior to times when a large number of flights are due to arrive.

Drivers who admit to creating a false shortage in order to drive up prices say the practice is repeated several times a day in the rideshare parking lots at the airport. The disciplined price-fixing action can cost airport passengers (who have no idea they are being ripped off) an extra $15 per ride.

How Very Frequent Flyers Avoid this Scam

  • If you have time to spare, then wait briefly for artificial surge prices to abate.
  • If possible, avoid peak travel periods.
  • When at DCA, consider taking a short train ride to an off-airport location for pickup (where surge prices are less likely to be in effect)

Very Frequent Flyers Uber Scams

Partners in Crime

In some parts of the world, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft aren’t legal at all. And, in that case, hopping in one can make you complicit in a crime.

One very frequent flyer reports being asked to sit in the front rather than backseat of an Uber ride from Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in Costa Rica. It turns out the driver could face a hefty fine for picking up passengers at the airport and didn’t especially want to draw the attention of the police.

How Very Frequent Flyers Avoid this Scam

  • If rideshare services, such as Uber or Lyft are prohibited, then maybe don’t use rideshare services.
  • Don’t agree to make accommodations for drivers who indicate they are breaking the law.
  • Be willing to walk away and find another form of ground transportation.

Very Frequent Flyers Uber Scams

Cancel Culture

Uber and Lyft both have cancellation fees in place to protect drivers from wasting time and gas while driving to pick someone up only to have them cancel or no-show. Flyertalkers, however, report that some drivers abuse the clause to collect cancellation fees without ever intending to drive riders to their destinations.

In some cases, drivers are accused of intentionally arriving at an inaccessible location rather than the arranged pickup point. In other cases, riders report that drivers never even stopped when driving past the pickup point and instead report the rider as a no-show and collect an easy cancellation fee.

How Very Frequent Flyers Avoid this Scam

  • Take a screenshot of the open app when you arrive at the arranged pickup address.
  • Be at the arranged pickup address before scheduling a ride.
  • Don’t accept rides from drivers with low user ratings.
  • Be persistent when disputing undeserved cancellation fees.


Have you fallen victim to any of these rideshare cons or do you have a cautionary tale of your own to tell? Pay it forward and join the conversation in the Flyertalk threads dedicated to Ride Services, including Uber and Lyft.

View Comments (17)


  1. dhturk

    March 6, 2020 at 4:32 am

    Four of us took a Lyft from Manhattan to Newark airport. Everything’s fine until he exits into Newark (downtown area). Just so happens I know Newark and he’s right by my college roommates business, which is definitely not on the correct route. He says it must be a software problem and reinserts the airport as the destination. Turns out he canceled my original request for one of the terminals and entered a “change destination”. I notified Lyft and refunded the amount over my original quote.

  2. MitchR

    March 6, 2020 at 4:45 am

    I scheduled an Uber to take me from a party at a country club to a train station. The entrance to the club was set back about 200 feet from the road. It was pouring rain and the driver wouldn’t come up the driveway. I called him and he said “walk to the road or I cancel.” I didn’t and he did, no ride and a $5 change fee. The bellman at the club called me a cab which to my surprise was just $1 more.

  3. KimchiExpress

    March 6, 2020 at 5:48 am

    The problem with both Uber and grab (Uber of SE Asia) is that they make it nearly impossible to contact them to make a complaint or ask for a refund. I always have to go through a long tree of selections – none that fit my situation – and then explain my situation.

    ** Be aware that in some locations around the world Uber and Grab accept cash. With many locals not having a credit card they pretty much have to. When I was in BKK I took multiple rides and when the driver asked me to pay him I said I paid by credit card. Later I was contacted by Uber saying I didn’t pay for the fare! Ooops.

    Well, that was Uber’s fault as they switched my payment method from my credit card to cash automatically.

    Anyway, the driver were paid in the end.

  4. rylan

    March 6, 2020 at 5:55 am

    Whats also absurd is that there is no penalty for drivers to cancel rides/pickups after accepting them. If you’re in a busy area I’ve frequently seen drivers accept and then just cancel, leaving you stuck there waiting for another driver to accept and cancel because they decide they don’t want to wait in a traffic line to pick you up.

  5. arcticflier

    March 6, 2020 at 6:56 am

    The only party more corrupt than ride share drivers are their employer.

  6. eefor jfp

    March 6, 2020 at 6:58 am

    as someone who very rarely uses these services, the tips are much appreciated.

  7. jamesteroh

    March 6, 2020 at 8:57 am

    The only time I had a scam was when I tried getting an uber back from universal to my hotel and the driver called and asked where I was going and he told me he didn’t know where it was and he new to la and asked me to cancel. I wasn’t going to give him a cancel fee because I knew he didn’t want that short of a trip and I do tip well but he had no way of knowing that. He offered to take me if I gave him $15 cash and I had to end up cancelling the ride and requesting the cancel fee credit but uber made it very hard to report this scam.

    Now vegas cab drivers are scammers. I always treat my uber drivers well and tip.

    I was told by someone I know who drives for uber that he checks for ratings and if someone is under 4.9 that he’ll decline the ping and if people don’t tip he never rates a 5 unless it’s a surge. He said the things that tick him odd the most are non tippers and people who have a wrong up pick up spot because they rely on the app gps and don’t verify if it’s the exact location of their pickup and people who eat in his car or leave trash behind

  8. IBobi


    March 6, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Logging off en masse to cause surge pricing.

    And, since these are not employees and the company is unlikely to discipline a “mass” of their drivers, what possible recourse does the consumer have.

    This is the rideshare company’s issue and it can certainly be resolved with technology. But they don’t.

  9. rthib

    March 6, 2020 at 3:40 pm

    Still 1000% better than the cab scams. At least they have no incentive to drive you the scenic route to run up fares. Or at DFW where they would exit the wrong end of the airport (South end if destination is north or North if South.)
    And if you want fun customer service, try talking to a cab company.
    I have never had an issue when contacting Uber customer support the few times I have needed to.

  10. randysea

    March 6, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    A French court of appeals recently held that Uber drivers are not independent contractors because of all the controls Uber places on them.

    California passed a law that went into effect this year that effectively makes Uber drivers employees, not independent contractors.

    However, the NLRB general counsel’s office said in an opinion released May 14, 2019, that Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees of the ride-hailing company, This denies Uber drivers the right to unionize, get minimum wage or overtime, and other protections of federal labor laws.

  11. aethelwulf

    March 6, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    My first time taking Uber was in Toronto. It was a real taxi cab that showed up.
    Not long after, taxi drivers in Toronto started being idiots, protesting against Uber, wanting the city to make it illegal, one guy throwing himself onto a moving car he *assumed* was an Uber for some reason.
    I had no sympathy for these guys, thinking back to my Uber trip, a real taxi driver in his real taxi, doubling as an Uber driver…
    The taxi industry just wants to protect its monopoly, so they whine about Uber because they don’t want competition.

  12. lianluo

    March 6, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Sounds like going with taxis is a better way to go

  13. dvs7310

    March 6, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    I don’t know about recommending people don’t use Uber/ Grab in places where it’s banned. The reason it’s banned is because there is a taxi union (mafia) that charges exorbitantly high prices. Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico (Cancun) all come to mind. Why should anyone pay $10-20 for a short trip to the taxi mafia when it should be $1-2 in an Uber or a legitimate taxi meter?

  14. Tailgater

    March 8, 2020 at 7:26 am

    Uber is widely used in Colombia although it’s illegal. For a few weeks (Feb 2020) the app didn’t work but now it does again.

  15. kkua

    March 8, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    I’m glad Uber, Lyft and all other ride sharing apps are reaching critical mass usage to reveal their potential flaws. Most of the drivers are good people, but the ones who are dishonest and downright prejudiced (those who incite violence against minority populations) should be barred. I’ve stopped using their services and went by public transport when possible.

  16. jahason

    March 10, 2020 at 6:32 am

    Would be a lot easier if there was a facility to WhatsApp the driver. In Saudi Arabia drivers often cancel the ride because they drive around and cannot find the location. If I call them they only speak Arabic and cannot understand me in English.

  17. sethb

    April 1, 2020 at 11:47 pm

    Whenever I use Uber Pool Saver, it has me walk a couple of blocks and routes the car right past where I called it from. The only times this has ever not happened were at airports where there was no place they could tell me to walk to.

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