(NewsNation) — Lyft drivers are improperly and unfairly charging consumers for damages they did not cause, according to a NewsNation investigation.
The investigation established that the scam is quite widespread. A driver exits Lyft and receives a notification that they are being charged for car damage they did not cause. When they dispute the charges, Lyft tells them it investigated and shows the motorcyclist the photos as proof.
On a recent trip to Miami, Emily Eliseo did what she’s done countless times before: She hailed a Lyft, and her trip was short and memorable — until she got home.
“I got a notification that I was charged for damages,” Emily Eliseo recalled. “The driver sent photos showing that I damaged the car, and Lyft’s policy is to charge based on the damage, so they charged $150 for the estimated damage.”
Her driver said she damaged the car and even sent Lyft pictures of what Emily said looked like vomit. She tried to contact Lyft, but without success, so she turned to social networks
“It’s the only way to get the attention of these companies,” Eliseo said.
On Twitter, Eliseo realized that she was not alone. In April, a regular Lyft rider identified only as Paul said he was charged $80 for allegedly spilling a drink in his Lyft.
“I wrote to them and asked, ‘What was it for?’ and they said it was because there was an open container of beer in the car and it spilled,” said Paul, who denied the claim.
Chris Elliott, who runs the consumer advocacy blog Elliott Advocacy, says he’s recently noticed an increase in fraudulent Lyft scams.
“It’s the perfect scam because it’s very difficult to deny that you smoked in the car or spilled a drink,” he said.
“They’re all very similar — they assume someone’s going on a trip — usually a short trip — they get off and then their card is charged,” Elliott explained. “They send you pictures, they charge you, and there’s really nothing you can do about it.”
He says some Lyft drivers see the scam as easy money.
To avoid becoming a victim, Elliott says, “When you get in the car, take a picture, and when you get out, take a picture. Also, talk to the driver; build a relationship I’d say it’s much less likely that your driver will file a false claim against you if you’re in a relationship.”
If you do end up with a claim for damages, ask for photos and see the report. If all else fails, contact your bank and file a fraud report.
“Luckily, my bank refunded me after disputing the charge and saying it looked like a fraud and scam, they refunded me,” Eliseo said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s really the bank’s responsibility to do that. It’s Lyft.”
NewsNation reached out to Lyft to find out what it is doing to protect customers, but the company did not respond to a request for comment.