A highlight of the current gig economy is the isolation contractors feel when working for companies like Uber. Since the company is so compartmentalized, drivers often feel alienated and alone on the road. Scammers have picked up on this, and a robust, complex scam has been targeting newer Uber drivers for more than a year.
The scam in question involves misusing the information that customers get when they hail a ride through the Uber app. When you hail a ride, you see information about the driver, like their name and license plate number. Not to mention, you can call them through the app. That call gets a randomized, anonymous number with a 415 area-code, the same as Uber’s headquarters.
Upon hailing the cab, the user then calls the driver and claims to be from corporate and explains that there’s an issue with the driver’s account. The account needs to be verified before the driver can complete the fare, the scammer says. This is the tricky part: the scammer asks for the email and password of the driver. Then, the scammer has the driver tell them the code that they were just texted. You’ve probably guessed it: this is a phishing call, and that code was the two-factor verification. Now, the scammer is into the driver’s Uber account. “Alright, everything’s good here. We’ve transferred that ride to another car, but you’re free to keep driving.”
After that, of course, the damage isn’t done, but just beginning. The scammer will use their access to the driver account to change their account settings so that they can profit from any work the driver does. They’ll profit from any work the driver has done when Uber pays out for their work on Sunday.
The Company’s Responsibility to Uber Drivers
As of yet, Uber hasn’t formally acknowledged this scam to their new drivers. Lyft, which has been targeted by similar scams, has directly addressed drivers regarding it. Lyft drivers are thus less likely to fall for it, as their company has helped safeguard them. Uber, by contrast, is letting its drivers fend for themselves out there. There are dozens of things the company could do to fix this situation, but as of writing they claim that their authentication processes should keep drivers safe.
A few targeted by the scam are contacted by Uber to inform them of potential illegal activity on their account. However, if Uber took steps like Lyft, they could avoid the issue altogether. Something as simple as Lyft’s pre-recorded message that tells a driver it’s a customer calling them would take the legs out from under this scam. Uber, ever the helpful and caring employer, has done no such thing. If you’re an Uber driver, take steps to protect yourself, and don’t give anyone your account info.