What Is Uber Vomit Fraud? Drivers Are Accused of Scamming Customers

Some Uber drivers in the U.S. are being accused of faking cases of passengers being sick in cars to charge them additional fees of up to $150 in a scheme known as “vomit fraud.”

Several customers have complained of being hit with hefty cleanup charges for leaving a mess in vehicles, often having to go through lengthy email exchanges in order to be reimbursed. Uber is “actively looking” into the reports, according to The Miami Herald newspaper.

On its website, Uber policy states that riders are responsible for any damage to the interior or exterior of a vehicle. The charge for food or drink spills is $20; vomit and larger spills on fabric are $80; and significant amounts of bodily fluids will be billed at $150. “In the event you are charged a cleaning fee, you will receive an updated trip receipt,” the company says.

But since at least 2016, reports emerged that some drivers were taking advantage of the policy to make more money. Two years ago, The Gothamist.com reported on the case of one frustrated customer who said she had been charged an unwarranted cleaning fee for vomiting. The Uber driver produced fake photographs of the incident, Meredith Mandel claimed.

An Uber spokesperson told Newsweek: “Participating in fraudulent activity of any kind is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines. We are constantly evaluating our processes." 

The U.S.-based ride-hailing company told The Miami Herald’s Spanish-language sister paper, El Nuevo Herald, that if any culprits were found, it would “take appropriate actions on those accounts.” The news outlet received one report from a customer who was hit with two charges in a single night. William Kennedy of Miami said neither trip should have cost more than $20.

“It was a total fraud by two different drivers,” Kennedy stated. “They have everything planned for the fraud.” Another rider, Andrea Pérez, said she was charged a $98 cleanup fee for a trip last year and was only reimbursed after complaining to her credit card company.

Several commenters on Reddit also claimed to be victims of the fraud.

From the inside, an unnamed Uber driver was unsurprised by the underhanded practice. “They’ve been doing it for a long time,” the driver told the Herald. “Many people don’t review their emails or credit card statements, so the drivers wind up pocketing the $80 or $150.”

It isn't the first time drivers have been accused of exploiting customers’ bank accounts.

Last year, cases of so-called “phantom trips” emerged from Singapore. Channel NewsAsia reported that unauthorized transactions were being discovered on accounts for trips that had never been taken. Credit card charges were tied to rides in Europe, victims said.

This article was updated to add comment from an Uber spokesperson. 

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