Rideshare apps have changed that landscape of transportation. Now, drivers are trying to change the landscape of payment. ABC7 has reported on a new fare scam after discovering that drivers that frequented Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. used a surge pricing trick to earn vastly higher fares. Yesterday, the news station shared that they have since learned that the scheme is present nationwide.
According to the original story, every night, rideshare drivers — including those from behemoths Uber and Lyft — at Reagan Airport would turn off their applications, causing the app to believe that there was a shortage of drivers in the area. The lack of drivers would create a price surge. Once the drivers believed the price was high enough, they would turn on their apps. The drivers would then benefit from the surge pricing since it takes time for the app to recalibrate the supply of drivers.
“We know when [all the airplanes] land. So five minutes before, we turn all our apps off — all of us at the same time. All of us we turn our apps off. They surge, $10, $12, sometimes $19. Then we turn our app on. Everyone will get the surge,” said one driver.
Those interviewed said that the scam was necessary after Uber and other rideshare companies continued to initiate pay cuts for drivers. Those interviewed said that “all” drivers participated.
“Uber doesn’t pay us enough, what the company is doing is defrauding all these people by taking 35-40 percent,” one driver said. Though many of the riders expressed some guilt, knowing that the cost would be passed onto their customers, they maintained that it was a financial necessity, not a maneuver based in greed.
“Everyone [does] it… They know if they take a ride from here without surge, without pumping the surge up, it’s not worth it.”
Though Uber initially said that the scenario at Reagan National Airport was an isolated incident, ABC7‘s follow-up story found that the scam was widespread throughout the country.
One ride-share driver named Dustin even shared a YouTube video to his 20,000 subscribers, likening the surge-pricing trick to Fight Club — joking that rule number one is that drivers should not talk about “Surge Club.”
Since the news broke, Uber has released a statement on the widespread con.
“We have taken steps to address fraudulent behavior… engaging in this behavior may result in removal,” the company said. However, Uber gave no advice on how passengers could avoid higher prices.