How to stay safe when taking an Uber or Lyft

Spencer Platt/Getty

  • A college student in South Carolina was murdered after mistaking a car for her Uber ride, police said.
  • The case highlights every Uber riders fear, but there are simple ways to make sure you’re getting in the right car.
  • Always check the make, model and licence plate number for your ride, and confirm with the driver who they are supposed to be picking up.

A 21-year-old college student was murdered in South Carolina on Saturday after getting into a car she mistook for her Uber ride, police said.

The chilling tale is a nightmare scenario for customers of any ride-haling app, and fake drivers are an ongoing scam the company warned about nearly two years ago.

“Unauthorised individuals may pose as rideshare drivers and target people who appear to be distracted or impaired,” Uber said in a 2017 blog post announcing its “check your ride” awareness campaign.

Here’s how to make sure you’re at the right car for your Uber ride:

Check the make and model of your ride.

When you request a ride through the app, Uber will show you the driver’s name and photo, along with the vehicle make, model and licence plate.

“In cases when you are helping someone request a ride through Uber who may have had a few drinks or is unfamiliar with the app, help them double check that the driver and vehicle match the details in the app – before they get in the car,” Uber said.

In some cities, like New York, Uber cars are required to be officially licensed by the local government’s taxi authority (or similar agency). Look for the driver’s licence or other certificate displayed in the car.

Ask who the driver is picking up

In the same way passengers are shown a driver’s name, the Uber driver app shows the name of who’s requested the ride. Instead of asking, “are you here for ___?” ask the driver who they are looking for. This way, you can avoid a scammer from simply saying “yes,” to whatever name is said.

“If the information doesn’t match up, do not get into the car,” Uber said. “Go to a safe place and wait for the right car to arrive, or cancel the ride and report it to us.”

Share your trip details with a family member or friends

Inside the Uber app, you can add trusted contacts as well as family members who you can then share ride details with. To find the options, hit the left menu button, and then touch “settings.”

Don’t use your home address

If you want an extra layer of privacy, use the nearest cross-streets to your location for pick-up or drop-off, Uber suggests. This allows you to avoid using your home address.

Give feedback

Uber relies on ratings from passengers and drivers on every trip. If nothing explicitly harmful happened to you, but something else made you uncomfortable, reporting it could help the company’s automated systems identify a problematic pattern with the driver.

Trust your gut

Lastly, Uber says, if something doesn’t feel right, get somewhere safe and report the issue.

“Trust your instincts and use your best judgment when riding with Uber,” the company says. “If you ever feel you’re in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.