Suspected Uber Kidnapping Attempt Is Just The Latest In Wave Of Ride Share App Horror Stories

The Publica Team

Passengers of popular ride share apps like Uber and Lyft are expressing their concerns about continuing to use the services after a wave of horror stories involving drivers attempting to kidnap or assault primarily female customers.

On March 23, Jason Levin, a VC Scout with Creator Ventures, took to X to reveal that his fiancée had been the victim of a suspected abduction by an Uber driver in New York City. Calling it the “scariest day” of his life, Levin revealed that he received a text from his partner simply reading “HELP” while she was en route to her bridal shower in Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Mid-trip, the woman realized that the Uber was taking her in the completely wrong direction, driving her towards East Harlem. Levin explains he began frantically calling his fiancée, but was unable to reach her. He then called NYPD and reported the situation. Minutes later, he receives a call from his terrified fiancée revealing that she had managed to escape the Uber by opening the door mid-drive and jumping out when the driver slowed to a stop in confusion.

She then realized that the driver had never even formally confirmed that he had picked her up in the app.

Levin posted a map of Manhattan to show his readers that there was no way it could have simply been a missed turn, demonstrating that his fiancée had managed to escape the car as it was just about to hit the bridge to East Harlem, which was in the polar opposite direction of her destination.

Levin’s post has since attracted over 2 million views, and thousands of comments from concerned readers expressing sympathy. Uber has not yet provided a statement on the situation.

While many have called for the Uber driver responsible to be arrested, others in the comments, primarily women, recounted similar situations they had experienced while using ride-share apps.

One user, Megan Ruth, replied that she had been in a similar situation while taking an Uber in Miami, and that she had been surprised to find multiple men in the car when she and her friend entered the vehicle.

On Reddit, there have been multiple women recounting incidents involving suspected attempted abductions in the past month while using Uber competitor Lyft.

In one, posted on March 6 by u/HRHQueenV, the woman explains that she and her friend had been taken in a completely incorrect direction by the driver, who appeared to believe they were too inebriated to notice.

“He was headed to a part of town I am not familiar with. My home address is saved and I am 100% sure I plugged in the right address. Let me repeat that, I put in the correct address. To verify, I checked the destination the following day,” she said.

“He clearly thought both of us were too drunk to notice. He was very startled that I caught on and asked him where he was taking us. He could not answer and would not explain. I could see a strange address on his GPS.”

The user explains that the moment she felt uneasy, she asked for them to be dropped off at a passing 7/11, at which point the driver became aggressive with the women.

“He tried to force us out of the car in the middle of nowhere on an unlit street,” she says. “He got flustered and told me he didn’t have my home address and made me give it to him. I gave him a ‘close’ address and he dropped us there. It was terrifying and I shoved my friend out of the car the minute he stopped. I lost my glasses and $100 in cash in that guy’s car.”

On the r/TwoXChromosomes subreddit, another woman posted about her ordeal in a Lyft. The woman says she had landed in Nashville on Friday, March 22, and called a Lyft to the airport to take her to her destination, a cafe in the downtown area.

While she verified that the car and plates matched the app’s description of her driver, the individual behind the wheel did not. Though registered under the name “Brandy,” the driver was male, and when questioned on the discrepancy, the user says the driver claimed he was filling in for her.

“While driving he starts asking weird questions. Am I meeting anyone there, will they be there soon, tells me this cafe is in a bad part of town. To me it looked ultra bougie online, and in the heart of town,” she explains. “Suddenly he clicked that he had dropped me off on the app. He said he was taking me to a nicer place, and that he’d pay for me.”

The woman says she attempted to protest, but that the driver did not listen to her.

“He pulled in to a gas station and said he had to use the bathroom. As soon as he went in, I got out and ran. I had to run pretty far, and in to an insurance place where everyone was speaking Spanish and didn’t seem to speak much English. Thankfully they understood I needed help… and just let me sit inside while I waited for a new cab. I looked out of the window for a long time until he finally left.”

The user concludes her post by saying she reported the driver to Lyft, but did not hear back from the app.

On social media, many have suggested that the issue with the new app-based gig economy appears to be rooted in its lack of employee vetting.

On X, Reduxx co-founder Anna Slatz quoted Levin’s thread, and wrote: “This is the predictable fruit of the service gig economy. men who would never be able to get work in a formal interview are being hired via online quiz to do a job that gives them access to women (Uber, Lyft) or women’s houses (Instacart, DoorDash). The rape is built-in.”

Others noted the influence of illegal migration on such apps, with the jobs often being favored by undocumented immigrants as they require minimal English proficiency. While the data is unclear in many parts of the US, in San Francisco, 56% of gig workers are immigrants.

There have also been a number of reported instances of undocumented immigrants “borrowing” other people’s ID to start up accounts on food delivery apps. In some instances, immigrants are even paying to use another person’s legitimate registration for the purposes of getting a job with Uber Eats or DoorDash.

In the UK, British citizens are renting out their Uber Eats accounts to those who are undocumented or ineligible for as little as $90 per week. In New York City, a Venezuelan migrant admitted to the New York Post that he had been renting an American’s ID for $300 per month.

According to Atchison Transportation, an American-owned independent transportation service, Uber’s process for onboarding drivers is dangerously negligent. 

“Neither Uber nor Lyft uses fingerprints or law enforcement to background-check their drivers. And Uber doesn’t even bother to meet with drivers in person before allowing them to ferry passengers,” the company wrote in a blog post from last year in which they documented several dozen deaths, rapes, or driver imposter cases involving Uber and Lyft.

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