More Ways Passengers Can Cheat Uber

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Editors note:  Jetsetter’s Homestead does not encourage or endorse Uber hacking techniques.  Attempt to cheat Uber at your own risk!

The number of “hacks” for passengers to cheat Uber seems to be growing, prompting discussion among drivers about Uber’s fare adjustment practices.

On several Uber driver message boards and private groups in the past week, drivers around the US are reporting new issues with the popular ridesharing system and passenger “cheat Uber” practices.

In the past, I’ve discussed my thoughts on hacking applications such as Surge Protector that can lead to increased costs and decreased fares for drivers. These new issues pose more concerns for drivers for Uber, not just with pay but also with insurance liability concerns.  As passengers look to cheat Uber, drivers (and Uber) are developing awareness of these new practices.

1. Passengers cancelling rides while using the service

Drivers in several cities have reported that the rider interface is allowing passengers to cancel rides that are actually in progress.  Drivers who are not paying attention to the Uber app while driving (for example, those who are not using Uber’s navigation or driving with a window phone mount) may continue driving without noticing that the passenger actually ended the ride while in progress.

Uber has reported to some drivers who have inquired that this is a safeguard for passengers should they notice that their driver has failed to end a ride or has somehow started a ride they are not on.  But several drivers have reported passengers who have purposely ended rides while en route either to try to lessen their charges or to try to avoid a surge fare.

This poses an issue not only with fair driver compensation but also insurance liability.  Uber’s insurance policy is two-tiered.  A basic commercial occurrence policy covers drivers any time that the Uber app is open (i.e. they are accepting rides) but the larger liability policy that covers passengers is only in effect while a ride is actually in progress (i.e. the time between the time the driver slides the button for “start ride” and the time the driver slides the button to “end ride”).    A user cancelling the ride not only ends the higher degree of liability coverage but after a ride cancellation, a driver may need to manually log back into the Uber app to be considered “online” at all.

As well, if the driver is still logged in but not currently on a ride, they can receive “pings” for a new passenger pick up, one that may be different than the passenger in the vehicle at the present time.

Drivers who continue driving would have to appeal to their local Uber office to have the fare correctly adjusted – and typically this would be a driver versus passenger scenario.  The driver has to be vigilant when the passenger tries to cheat Uber or they lose every time.

What Would Jetsetter’s Homestead Do (WWJHD)?:  As a driver, if this were to happen to me – and it has on one occasion – I would pull over and immediately end the ride, regardless of whether the passenger was at their final destination.  If the passenger wanted to continue the ride (assuming the cancellation was accidental), I would give them the option of rerequesting the ride and restarting with a fresh ride fare.  This is not only to allow for fair monetization of the ride, but also to protect both the driver and passengers in terms of liability.

2. Passengers ending the ride on the driver’s app

This one takes some gall – I’ve heard two different stories in the last week about passengers using the driver’s phone to end the ride early.  In one case, the driver’s phone was on the console and a passenger grabbed the phone and swiped the “end ride” button on the driver’s app while they were at an intermediate requested stop.  In the second case, the driver was unloading luggage while one passenger remained in the vehicle.  That passenger proceeded to reach over to the driver’s window-mounted phone and not only end the ride, but also rate herself.  (Uber drivers rate passengers the same way that passengers rate Uber drivers.)

Ending the ride prematurely is a dangerous prospect for both the driver and the passenger for the reasons noted above.  Also, self-rating as a passenger compromises the system of checks and balances Uber has in place (typically low rated passengers are abusive to drivers, disrespectful of their vehicles, or pose other concerns for driver well-being).

WWJHD?:  I have a window-mounted phone and I have zero tolerance for passengers reaching into my space as a driver.  Trying to grab my phone would be grounds for the passenger ride ending.  As in scenario one, I would pull over and end the ride.  Also, I do not end rides until all passengers and their belongings are out of my vehicle.  If I have to exit the vehicle to load luggage, my phone goes with me.

3. The disputed enroute stop conundrum

Jamie at The Forward Cabin brought forth an interesting scenario this week in his post that included the title text “How to Ride Uber for Free” where he had an entire ride comped due to the driver making a restroom stop enroute.

It’s unknown whether Uber had any dialogue with the driver in question as its common practice for Uber to adjust fares without driver discussion (I’ve had it happen!) – in most cases, a ride readjusted to $0 would result in a $0 ride for the driver’s compensation as well.

While I understand the reasons behind Jamie’s dispute, I think Uber’s action was extreme and that the marketing of this as a possible way to ride Uber for free sets a dangerous precedent.

Enroute stops are a common part of the driving experience.  I’d estimate that 15% of my passengers make requests to stop somewhere enroute (and sometimes somewhere completely off route as happened with my second-to-last ride on New Year’s Eve).  Often these stops are at convenience stores (like the one in Jamie’s case) so the rider can pick up beer or cigarettes.

Drivers have no way of documenting via the app that the extra stop was at a passenger request.  Sometimes those stops are lengthy – like the guy who had me “swing by Target” so he could pick up groceries – and easily could be reported later as ME (the driver) requesting to stop.

WWJHD?: I can’t refuse all stops but I can cover myself as a driver by keeping good notes on passenger requests.  I always enter the interim stop as a destination on Uber’s app so that their navigation guides me to the location and then re-enter the original destination after the stop ends.  In extreme cases, a driver can end the ride at the stop and tell the passenger to re-request the ride after they have completed their business at the stop.  As a driver, I review my daily statements and if a ride is adjusted, I can have the local office review the reasoning behind it.

Driving for Uber continues to be an adventure – and as new hacks and potential scams emerge, drivers must remain vigilant to avoid falling prey to passenger manipulation as more individuals try to cheat Uber.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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  1. I think Jaime’s unscheduled stop, where the driver took a bathroom break, did deserve the fare to be comped. If the driver hasn’t used the facilities and could conceivably need to do so during the longest drive they might be facing then they shouldn’t accept the ride.

    These other issues, well, they’re really quite skeazy. Uber should certainly provide, if they don’t, a mechanism for a driver to provide their side of the story and not lose their fare arbitrarily.

    • I think comping the entire fare was an extreme move on Uber’s part. It sounded like it was a true need (versus a “hey, its time for my break”) and a $0 fare for him means $0 money for the driver on what was not a short ride otherwise. I’m more concerned that it exposes a loophole in Uber’s current system where its the passenger’s word versus the driver’s when there is any type of stop that occurs in the ride.

    • Have you ever used uber??? The drive does NOT know where the passenger is going until the passenger gets in the car. Therefore, if it’s an hour long trip; the driver does not know in advance. I could agree that the passenger should be discounted if the trip was 20 minutes or less.

    • Well if that’s the case then there should be a comp to the driver to stop if request ed by the rider due to the time/ware and tare of the vehicle. Some people driving or should I say “partnering with uber ” have medical conditions where they have to utilize the restrooms more than usual. I believe that someone should not be punished for using the restroom. No body works for free would you? Anyway I find that uber is really hit or miss and isn’t really worth doing full time.

  2. I think the term “hacking” is being used a little loosely. This is flat out stealing and everyone knows it. And I agree a zero fare was excessive. Drivers should have some input. The customer’s “not always right”.

  3. Once an uber driver stopped to pump gas… It took him 5 min… I did nothing… Could I have done something in that case?

    • Hypothetically, yes. The decision on whether to adjust a fare is up to Uber’s local office and they have access to the real-time GPS tracking for the ride and can determine if an adjustment is appropriate. I’ve twice protested a fare myself, both times in Manhattan. Once the driver tried to take us to the wrong hotel and got stuck in heavy crosstown traffic. Uber said that our fare was comparable with others that same day/time and did not adjust it after reviewing the rout. A second one had our driver being pulled over and receiving a traffic ticket for running a red light. Uber adjusted 25% of my fare.

  4. Funny how a company that prides itself on breaking the law and disrupting the legal regimes that govern the economy is now upset at its customers doing the same thing? Does anybody see this as ironic. Can we really fault the customers for acting as uber does?

    • @lawlessness yes. Stealing is stealing. If I feel a company is acting unethically, even that won’t make me rationalize “why yes, they’re stealing, so I will steal from them too”. If I have a problem with the company I’ll use another company. But Uber acting the way it does is not a justification for stealing from the drivers.

  5. Hi Jen, you are the Uber anti-fraud guru so I figure I’ll ask your advice here.

    I had a minor issue with Uber in Dubai this morning. I requested a pickup and the driver called to say where to meet him in the car park. However, when I went to the arranged spot, the driver was not actually there and to my surprise he had already started the ride on the app and my fare was ticking while he drove around somewhere else. I had to cancel the ride and was charged a cancellation fee as a result.

    Uber allows you to request a fare review if you actually take a ride, but there is no such link in the billing for a cancelled trip. There is no contact email or phone number for them either and I’m not keen to go via publicly viewable social media such as Twitter or Facebook for a billing issue. Any ideas?

    • If you have issues with billing. Login to uber online (not the app) OR you may reply to your receipt email. Explain your issue in full and Uber Support will make a decision.

  6. Go to Utube: Uberman
    He teaches drivers how to cheat their customers like Uber cheats their drivers
    Make more money canceling orders.

  7. In light the fact that Lyft (I believe only Lyft so far) is proposing to allow for multiple scheduled stops, don’t you think they should charge a much higher “wait per minute” fee so the always-promised “five minutes” would cost $5 more, and if they lied and spent 15 minutes, $15 more?

  8. Scenario #1 happened to me. The rider was not actual rider, but her friend. She claimed that she never took this ride. Uber did not pay me at all. All the request about it are just ignored.

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