Uber Scam Now Fixed…For Uber. For Riders? Maybe Not So Much

by SharonKurheg

Not quite 2 years ago, we wrote a piece about a scam some Uber drivers had been pulling in an attempt to get more money. After drivers would claim passengers had made a mess in their car, Uber’d reimburse them for cleaning and charge the passenger a fee for “property damage.” Except it turned out that a whole lot of the time, the alleged damage had not been done, as evidenced by the type of “proof” drivers sent in the form of photos. After getting nowhere with Uber, heaven forbid you should dispute the bill with your credit card company or, well, it’s all in the post.

Welp, it looks like Uber fixed the problem last year. Except it doesn’t appear to fix anything for us passengers. It does fix it for Uber, though.

I was doing follow up and it appears that, sometime in early summer 2019, Uber changed their rules such that drivers who claimed property damage had to show (A) photos of the damage and (this part is new) (B) professional repair estimate (or receipt), to be reimbursed. Here it is on Uber’s website, and this video goes into more detail.

In theory, the new set up is a great way to stop those who truly don’t have damage to their car; they won’t get paid the money for damage unless they can prove the damage that needed to be fixed.

But does that mean Uber isn’t charging the passenger unless the damage and cleanup have been proven? I’m not so sure.

  • This post from March 2020 describes someone who was charged a $76 cleaning fee as soon as she and her husband left the car.
  • And there’s the Skittles incident from July 2019 – an £80 charge for dropping a bag of Skittles? (and yeah, I know The Sun is a rag mag but still…)
  • Susan of Baltimore wrote on Consumer Affairs about an incident that happened in late February 2020 (Review is dated March 4, 2020):
    “I traveled to Orlando last week with 3 other adults. We were picked up from the airport in a Corolla. Three adults in the back and one in the front. The ride was uneventful and we were dropped off about 1 hour later. I received an email from Uber on our 3rd day of vacation stating that they were adjusting my rate by $120.00. I was confused so I sent an email thru the help app. I was informed that I was being charged a cleaning fee of $120.00 as our driver reported we made a mess of her car. They then sent me pictures of what looked like vomit on the driver side rear floor, door and seat. I was shocked. As I started to look up information about how to contact corporate, I noticed there were tons of complaints about drivers and a fake vomit scam so that they get paid more money. After several more emails I told them what I read and asked them how the hell can 3 adults sitting so close to each other could have thrown up on the seat and floor. I told them I had already disputed this bogus fee with my bank and I was going to contact my attorney as well. They finally agreed to and gave me back the 120.00 “cleaning fee”. This was my first time ever using Uber and it will be my LAST. It’s a shame people out there are so dishonest!

These are my concerns:

  • If Uber isn’t going to reimburse drivers unless they show proof with a photo and estimate/receipt, where do they get off charging passengers as soon as they get out of the car? How do they even know how much the “damage” is worth at that time?
  • If “Cleaning fees are assessed and charged according to the extent of damage,” how did Uber decide that 20 Skittles spilled on the floor was worth charging £80 to clean up?
  • If Susan of Baltimore’s driver had shown proof with a photo and estimate/receipt, why was Uber only eager to drop the charges when she mentioned an attorney?

It just sounds like Uber’s billing for “damage” had not changed one iota from when we originally posted about it; they only ask for more proof from their drivers.

Which leads me to this question – let’s say you’re an Uber passenger and are perfectly neat and clean during your ride. You get out, tip well via the app, and then get a $150 charge 30 minutes later for an “…incident that requires cleaning between the window/door or air vents, major bodily fluid mess” level of damage that you didn’t do. You don’t notice the extra charge because your Uber bill is on an email account you don’t look at often, and you (stupidly) don’t review your credit card bills when you get them, so you never complain about the charge. Your driver fails to show Uber proof of said damage and therefore is no longer allowed to drive for Uber.

Does Uber automatically reimburse you for the fraudulent $150 damage charge?

I did a lot of research for this and saw nothing that suggested anyone ever got reimbursed unless they either complained loudly or threatened. Not one person said, “Good news! I had an Uber bill for damages I didn’t do and they sent me my money back and said it was a mistake. Found money!”

True, maybe Uber does automatically reimburse people for situations like that and I just couldn’t find the incidents online. It’s possible. After all, if they didn’t notice the got charged, they may not have noticed when they got reimbursed, either, so it never made the ‘net.

But when Joe and I take an Uber (or Lyft), I always take a picture of the back seat of the car after we’ve exited but before we close the door. We will continue to do that. Just in case.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Lisa Rasmussen April 19, 2020 - 3:22 pm

I had a coworker who had this same thing happen to him… he promptly requested rides in the same area amd luckily was able to find the same driver after about 3 or 4 days of randomly requesting rides. Let’s just say that the uber driver more than paid for his scam with my coworker when they met face to face. If more people would go after these crooks more seriously then they would get the message…

SharonKurheg April 19, 2020 - 4:24 pm

REALLY? Holy crap! What did your co-worker do?!?!?!

Christian April 19, 2020 - 7:51 pm

I’d love to know too.

Carl WV April 19, 2020 - 4:32 pm

Simple. There should be an inspection as you leave the vehicle. The Uber receipt should then show the agreement between the parties. NO reporting after the fact, If the parties disagree then BOTH parties would have time to take pictures, etc.,

Pictures and repair bills AFTER the fact are too easy to scam. A driver that would pull this scam could just as easily stage photos and have a deal with an estimator.

Arlington Traveler April 20, 2020 - 12:42 pm

CARL WV, your comment shows ignorance at how Uber works. In urban areas, where us is highest it’s treated like a taxi. So yeah, drunk folks ride and nope they aren’t going to be in much dondition to agreeing to something on their app (or may just say **** you to the driver) after a drop off. The reality as Phil pointed out is that drivers who go to this well too often get disconnected and because your drive profile is linked to your drivers license, it’s not like they can create a new e-mail and sign back up. The risk is low to a passenger, and guess what we live in a free market so if you don’t like Uber’s policy go use Lyft. If there policies are similar (and they generally are because Uber and Lyft compete for drivers) use a taxi instead.

Phil April 19, 2020 - 6:55 pm

It’s FAR more common for rider to make a mess and decline responsibility than for drivers to make s**t (EDIT by Sharon for adult language – we maintain a PG rating on our blog. Thanks for understanding) up. There’s little incentive for drivers to cheat since Uber allows only three allegations against a driver, none of which have to be proven, to permanently fire a driver. Riders, however, can easily scam a free ride by claiming to have been victimized, and there are no effective sanctions when caught since any fool can make an account—Uber doesn’t verify identity of riders and many use fake names, gift cards, and disposable emails and internet phone numbers.

Carl WV April 19, 2020 - 10:26 pm

I think what I suggested can protect both sides, No after the fact claims by riders either.

Christian April 19, 2020 - 7:53 pm

Uber customer service outside the basics is pretty much par with Marriott or Airbnb. Like it or not, the company simply doesn’t care.


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