Rideshare Scams, Set-Ups and Rip-Offs

Some people on this green earth will always have a primary mission to take advantage of others.

The rideshare world is no exception.

Various scams and rip-offs are quite common and frankly, not always easy to avoid.

I’ve personally experienced each one of them firsthand. The reason I tell you they’re not always easy to avoid is circumstantial and you must apply your best judgment. Your decision will always have some assumed risk.

To set the stage, the rideshare platform, regardless of the company a person drives for, responds quickly to rider complaints, especially if the complaint involves safety or bad behavior. Typically, once a rider files a complaint, the driver cannot use the rideshare platform until the complaint is researched fully and loses wages. So, the net result is the driver cannot drive “out of an abundance of safety” until a decision is rendered.

The paying customer has the greatest power in the rideshare universe.

If a rider is having a bad day or has other issues and needs a target to feel better, file a complaint and let the driver suffer a bit. Spreading misery around a little is the mantra some adhere to in life.

I recall one such ride where the misguided rider complaint cost me several days off the platform.

If you’re a rideshare driver, especially these days, you either get used to the smell of weed, alcohol, and other substances in your vehicle, or you simply don’t drive. The rider isn’t using drugs in your car as a rule, but they often reek from whatever they were doing before they get in.

During one ride, I had a guy who was smelling like a party. He had the “combo effect” going on. I could detect weed, booze, cigarettes, and some interesting chemical fragrances.

Possibly, Eau de Messed Up?

Anyway, he crawled out when we arrived at his stop, and I picked up a person two minutes later.

I was my usual friendly self, engaging in a little conversation, The ride was no longer than ten minutes. I dropped the person off and moved on.

Several days later I received an email from the rideshare company advising me that I had been removed from the rideshare app due to a rider complaint. The person said she could smell weed and alcohol in the car and suspected I was high.

Guilty until proven innocent.

I explained the circumstances. The smell from the prior ride was still in the car when the complaining party got in the car. Hence the complaint. I challenged the company to reach out to my riders before and after the complaint ride and question those riders about my behavior. I’m sure you will find the rider complaint was mistaken.

No response.

I was off the platform for three days, and suddenly without any notice or explanation, I was able to use the app. There was no “Dear Robert, we value you as a driver, and we’re sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We take our rider complaints very seriously, and out of an abundance of safety, we needed to remove you from the platform until everything was fully researched. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.”

Nope, nothing but the ability to drive and navigate the pitfalls once again.

Two very common scams (or could be scams), is to ask the driver not to use the GPS as a routing tool to get the person to their destination. Instead, they insist the driver follows their directions. Now, if the driver refuses, the rider could register a complaint that the driver was mean-spirited, nasty, or even worse. Behavior that is unacceptable on the rideshare platform. The driver would likely be removed from the platform, and out of work for a few days.

Conversely, if the driver agrees to disregard the GPS, and follow the routing directions of the rider, there could be consequences as well. If the rider ends up late to work or is delayed significantly due to not using the GPS, the rider could complain the driver ignored the GPS and it greatly impacted the rider.

It doesn’t matter that the driver was instructed not to use the GPS, it’s one person’s word against another.

The driver loses either way.

A similar rider scam is to ask the driver to drop them off at a different location than the designated destination. In most cases, this can be remedied by asking the rider to simply go on the rideshare app and update to a new destination. However, some claim they don’t know how to use the app or that the ride was arranged for them by someone else.

Now, the driver needs to either honor the request or risk an unwarranted complaint and be removed from the platform.

Or honor the request, and still be removed from the platform because the rider could be scamming and claim the driver dropped them off at the wrong location.

The driver is once again in a “Catch-22.”

Sometimes, these types of complaints result in an adjustment or elimination of the rideshare fees for the rider, which is their primary goal.

I would name the next rideshare experience as a rip-off rather than a scam.

I’m certain anybody who’s driven for a rideshare company has experienced this type of situation.

The driver receives a pick-up request on the app, and they accept the ride. They drive to the pick-up location and indicate they have arrived on the app. The clock starts ticking, the rider is given five minutes to show up otherwise the driver can cancel the ride as a “No Show,” and move on to the next ride. The driver is given a small wait fee.

In the waiting process, the rider can cancel the ride at any time before the five minutes have expired. In many cases, they cancel with thirty seconds left. The driver leaves with nothing for the drive or wait time. In some cases, the rider orders another rideshare from a competitor. Both companies show up and if they hop in the other vehicle, they cancel the ride with you before the five-minute timer is up.

Just another day in the big city.

If it’s too good to be true, it could be a scam.

Recently, I received a ride request that involved a ride from Maryland to JFK Airport in New York. The total for the trip was over $200. When I arrived at the pick-up location, I was met by a person holding an envelope. She wanted me to drive the envelope to JFK airport and meet a person there waiting for his flight and hand-deliver the envelope. The envelope was not sealed.

I asked the person who was the individual expecting the envelope and where they were located. She had the recipient’s last name on the envelope. She wasn’t sure where he was exactly, but to call a phone number once I arrived at JFK. On a Friday night, holiday weekend no less.

Not sure if this was a scam, but it could have certainly been a set-up.

I could smell trouble all over this ride. I declined the ride and drove off.

There is also an external rideshare scam going on that is more sophisticated.

It involves the driver receiving a phone call that appears to be from the rideshare company. The person represents themselves as an employee from the Customer Service department.

The scammer then goes on to explain that the driver was part of an identity theft scheme and they needed to clear it up immediately or be deactivated from the platform.

The driver is then asked to change the old password on their account and provide a new password via phone keypad. Supposedly, this settles the issue, but the scammer accesses the driver’s account and extracts money earned for the week.

In closing, some scams impact the rider adversely. Another story for another day.

If you’re a rideshare driver or plan to drive, please take note and beware.

If you’re a rider, please think twice before registering a flippant complaint now that you know the consequences to a hard-working driver.


My “Rideshare by Robert” blog continues with new stories based on my published book, “Rideshare by Robert: Every Ride’s a Short Story.” The book and blog are short stories about rides, observations, revelations, and reflections on the rideshare experience.


I’ve provided anonymity to all individuals portrayed in this blog. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. And, in some cases, the not-so-innocent. I have substituted the characteristics of individuals in my writings to further my attempt to maintain anonymity. Conversations and other details are based on my best recollection and notes. Although I have spent time driving with many celebrities and public figures over the years, I have intentionally omitted their names in my writings. Actual locales and other details such as when and where the rides occurred have been modified to maintain my objective of rider privacy and anonymity.