KPRC 2 Investigates: Rideshare passengers stuck with fake fines after ‘vomit scam’ strikes again

Rideshare customers beware - an old trick is making the rounds again. Passengers are getting stuck with fines for fake reasons. Our KPRC 2 Investigates team is here to explain what’s going on, and what you should think about on your next ride.

HOUSTON – Rideshare customers beware - an old trick is making the rounds again. Passengers are getting stuck with fines for fake reasons. Our KPRC 2 Investigates team is here to explain what’s going on, and what you should think about on your next ride.

‘Cleanup fee’ added to rideshare charge

We first told you about “vomit fraud” several years ago. But with more people now using rideshare services, we are seeing more of these types of scams popping up again. (Don’t worry, we are not going to show you any gross pictures.)

A stomach-turning discovery for Kristopher Hatfield.

“I woke up the next morning and realized that I had $150 missing from my bank account,” Kristopher Hatfield, vomit fraud victim.

Couple targeted in rideshare scam. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Hatfield discovered a huge fine added to a $7 Lyft ride he and his wife took to the rodeo.

“I looked at the charges. And it says a Lyft cleanup and damage feed,” said Hatfield.

The driver claimed one of them got sick in the car.

“They gave me the pictures. And it didn’t even look like her car. I tried talking to them. They just gave me a very simple, straightforward, you know, ‘We’ve evaluated the case, we are not changing or refunding the money.’ And we suggest that you contact your bank,” said Hatfield.

First, Chase bank did refund his money. But days later, they took it back after Lyft disputed his dispute.

“Lyft kept giving me the runaround,” he said.

Finally, Hatfield got the idea to send Lyft pictures with time stamps.

Houston couple had to submit photos to prove they did not get sick in their rideshare. The driver claimed they left a mess and charged a $150 fee. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“I said, ‘Does this look like either one of us is sick? Does this look like either one of us is drunk?’” explained Hatfield. “So that proof of the pictures of us looking smiling and holding our Brad Paisley tickets in front of NRG Stadium was enough, I guess for them to finally listen and start to question the story.”

Lyft finally gave him a refund. But, the damage was already done.

“My account went into overdraft, you know, which I couldn’t afford to have to happen because they charge overdraft fees and everything. And I realized that they never compensated me the trouble,” Hatfield explained.

Lyft sent us this statement:

“We take damage disputes very seriously. Lyft’s customer cares team investigates each incident individually and makes a determination based on the evidence available.” - Lyft spokesperson


Ways to protect yourself from cleanup fee scam

  • If you are using a payment app, you might be able to dispute charges quicker if you have it linked to a credit card, not your bank account.
  • Take a picture of the inside of the car when you get out.
  • You could check driver reviews, but in Hatfield’s case - he left the review before the fake charges.

“That was just a little bit of salt in the wound that she still got the five stars in the tip,” he added.

Uber had this problem too. They changed the policy and require drivers to first submit cleaning receipts before they get reimbursed. If this happens to you, report the driver to the rideshare service you used and let the Better Business Bureau know.


About the Authors:

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.