Beware The Uber Vomit Scam

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

The next time you use Uber, check your bill. The trip could turn out to be expensive — not just for the distance but for a type of fraud that is on the rise. It’s called “vomit fraud,” a scam repeatedly denounced in social networks yet still taking place. 

What is it? Miami’s El Nuevo Herald reports that passengers request Uber cars, which deliver them to their destination. So far so good. 

But then the passenger receives a note from Uber reporting an “adjustment” in the bill and an extra charge that can range from $80 to $150, depending on the driver’s degree of crookedness. 

The passenger, unaware of what’s happening, tries to contact Uber. The only way to do that is through the “help” button on the company’s app or internet page. 

The first reply usually goes something like this: “I understand that it can be disconcerting to receive adjustments to the tariff after your trip ended … In this case, your driver notified us that during your trip there was an incident in the vehicle and therefore a cleanup fee of $150 was added.” 

The message is accompanied by photos of the alleged incident — vomit in the vehicle. The Uber driver had sent the images to the company, which considered them sufficient evidence to add the cleanup charge to the bill. 

Uber policy is to charge $80 if a passenger vomits or spills a drink on the seats or any surface difficult to clean. But the charge can increase to $150 in cases of “significant quantities of body fluids (urine, blood or vomit) in the interior of the vehicle.” 

Uber says the extra fees compensate the drivers for the time and money they spend cleaning their vehicles. Fair enough, if it actually happens.

But even Uber admits that some drivers are pulling a scam. It says it doesn’t have specific numbers on fraud cases but that the vast majority of cleaning fee reports are legitimately the result of someone making a mess in the car. 

“In the instances where we find a confirmed case of fraud, we take appropriate action. With 15 million trips a day, Uber is unfortunately not immune to these types of incidents.”

So what happens if there was never any vomit?

Some passengers have to send three or four emails to resolve their complaints. They must tell Uber that there was no incident, and then wait for the company to investigate and, if it agrees, reimburse their money. 

Miami resident William Kennedy says he was a victim of vomit fraud -- twice on the same night.

>Kennedy took one Uber from Midtown to the SLS hotel on Brickell Avenue, and another later from the SLS to a club in Wynwood. Neither trip cost more than $20, he said. But the next day Uber sent him an email notifying him that it had added two $150 charges to his bill because he had vomited in both vehicles.

“It was a total fraud by two different drivers. They have everything planned for the fraud,” Kennedy said. 

Kennedy tried to explain to Uber that he was a victim of two frauds, but it took “numerous emails” to persuade the company to agree to cancel the charges and reimburse $300 to his credit card. 

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