The 8 Top Uber Scams of 2019 (and How to Avoid Them)

What to look out for when using Uber

A person waiting for a car to arrive while holding a smartphone

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Uber is a great way of getting around town and cities. It saves you having to find a local taxi firm, it's convenient to get a ride through your smartphone app, and it's often cheaper to use. However, it's also ripe for many scams and phishing attempts in a bid to steal your money or information. 

Here's a look at the top Uber scams out there at the moment, including the infamous Uber code text scam fraud. 

01
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The Uber SMiShing Scam

A woman sitting in the back of a car with her smartphone, frowning at the screen

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The Uber code text scam is also known as the Uber SMiShing scam. It's a simple concept. You're sent a text message with a four digit 'Uber code' advising you to reply STOP to the phone number in the message. 

Uber sends you a code when you're setting up a new account, so this scam relies on you wanting to avoid that by sending STOP. 

If you send a message containing STOP, you're instantly charged a lot for it as it's being sent to a premium rate number. Premium rate numbers get expensive fast and it's a quick and easy way for a scammer to make money out of you.

It's tricky to immediately tell if this is a scam as Uber often sends out messages legitimately. The best thing to do is to Google the number you're sent before texting anything back. If in doubt, don't send the message. If it's a genuine Uber message, you'll almost certainly be able to identify it via the app. 

02
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App Glitch Scam

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Ever been in an Uber and your driver has announced midway through the journey that their app has gone offline or gone wrong? If they've immediately asked you to pay in cash, you've been a victim of the Uber App Glitch Scam. 

What happens is that you pay in cash to appease the driver while you also pay a second time via the Uber app and the credit card you have on file there. So, you end up paying double, and the driver earns twice as much. 

Never pay with cash. Only pay via the app. If need be, terminate the ride then report the driver if they're insistent or make you feel uncomfortable.

03
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Cash Payment Scam

A woman in the back of a car handing over cash to the driver

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Similar to the Uber app glitch scam, a nefarious driver may declare that you chose to pay via cash once you reach your destination. They're relying on you being confused and assuming you pressed the wrong button on the app, so you end up paying. If you do pay, the driver chooses to cancel just before arrival leaving you to be charged a cancellation fee. 

Always double check how you chose to pay and don't blindly follow what the driver tells you. Don't hand over cash unless you're certain you chose to pay with cash. 

04
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Wrong Driver Scam

A person gets into the back of a car

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This scam is prevalent in airports and other locations where many pickups are occurring. It occurs when a drive comes to pick you up then asks you to cancel your ride and simply pay with cash. What tends to happen here is that you're not in an official Uber, and you've agreed to a ride with an unknown driver. 

This can be very dangerous as well as expensive. Always arrange your trips via the app. Don't just jump into someone's car without confirming they're your genuine Uber driver.

05
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Cleaning Fee Scam

A person vacuuming a car seat

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Popular amongst scam drivers when dealing with large groups, the cleaning fee scam is where a driver charges you a substantial fee for leaving the vehicle dirty in some way. It relies on you not noticing whether or not you've caused damage, which is why it's likely to happen if you're part of a large group, such as at the end of a night out. 

To avoid it, take pictures of the inside of the vehicle before you leave so that you can dispute any fees the driver may try to add after your ride ends.

06
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Re-Request Scam

A woman in a back of a car frowning at the driver while holding her smartphone

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If a driver claims a malfunction has occurred on the app so you'll need to re-request a ride, ask to check their app as well as your own. Re-requests bump the fare up by 35% due to surge pricing. That's unfair to you, but a nice little bonus for a driver. 

Before accepting the driver's explanation, make sure that there is an actual error on the system and they're not just trying to manipulate the system.

07
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Fake Uber App Scam

A man waiting to hail a cab with a smartphone in his hand

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Make sure you download the Uber app from the Google Play Store or other similarly safe place. Bogus Uber apps are out there and they use the Android.Fakeapp malware to steal your information without you realising. 

Never download an 'Uber' app from anywhere that isn't the official source. It's almost certainly infected with viruses and malware.

08
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Ride Cancellation Scam

A woman waiting on the side of a busy road, looking annoyed

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Some nefarious drivers can continue to keep you effectively on hold. They keep texting you to say they're only a couple of minutes away but they never seem to arrive. They rely on the customer losing their nerve and cancelling, incurring a cancellation charge. The charge might be small but if the driver repeats the process all day, they can rack up a lot of money with minimal effort. 

If this happens, don't lose your nerve. Hold on and they'll almost certainly turn up. If they don't, dispute the cancellation fee with Uber. 

What should I do if I'm a victim? 

Realized you're a victim to one of these Uber frauds? Here are some crucial steps on what to do next and how best to avoid being a victim in future.