'Vomit scam' leaving some Uber riders with big credit card bills

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Before you summon your next Uber, you may want to know about a scam that is leaving some riders with fat charges on their credit cards. 

Riders all across the country, and right here in Houston, say they were slapped with bogus clean-up fees on their credit cards. It's happened to so many customers, they've dubbed it the "Uber vomit scam."

"Shocking," said Pinto Walia. "I was floored. I said, 'What the heck is this?'"

Walia wondered why his 17-mile Uber ride went from $25 to $175 the very next day. The message from Uber said, "An incident during this trip resulted in a mess. Your driver's vehicle required cleaning."

"I said, 'Clean up what?' You know, 'What are you cleaning up?' Then they sent me a picture of somebody's vomit," Walia said.

Walia said it was not his, and Uber riders across the country are saying it's happened to them, too. They're accusing their drivers of faking photos and submitting them to Uber so they can collect a cleaning fee of up to $150.

Contesting the charge took time, but after some back and forth, Uber told him it would fully refund the money and that their systems would not match him with that driver again.

"This guy should be fired," Walia said. "He should not be working for you guys. He should not be doing this. It's a total scam."

A spokesperson for Uber said the driver has not had access to the app since January when Walia contested the fee.

“Participating in fraudulent activity of any kind is a clear violation of our community guidelines," the spokesperson said. "We are constantly evaluating our processes and technology related to these claims and will take appropriate action whenever fraud may be detected.”

Some victims have been able to search the metadata of vomit photos given to Uber by drivers to prove they were taken in locations or on dates that didn't match up with the location or date of their Uber ride. However, not all photos are searchable this way.

Something else you can do is snap a picture of the inside of the car when you get out of the Uber.

Uber has recently changed its cleaning fee policy, making it more difficult for drivers to collect the fees. They are now required to submit receipts of where they had the vehicle professionally cleaned within three days of any incident. They will then be reimbursed for the cost.

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