(NewsNation) — Consumers are getting incorrectly and unfairly charged by Lyft drivers for damages they didn’t leave behind, according to a NewsNation investigation.
The investigation found that the scam is quite common. A rider gets out of a Lyft and gets a notification that they are being charged for damages to the car that they didn’t cause. When they contest the charges, Lyft tells them it has investigated, and the rider is shown photos as proof.
On a recent trip to Miami, Emily Eliseo did what she’s done countless times before: She ordered a Lyft, and her ride was short and unmemorable — until she got home.
“I got a notification saying that I was charged for damages,” Emily Eliseo recalled. “The driver had sent in photos that I had damaged the car, and it’s Lyft’s policy to charge a fee depending on the damage, so they charged $150 for the alleged damage.”
Her driver said she damaged the car and even sent Lyft pictures of what Emily said looked like vomit. She tried to get in touch with Lyft but with no luck, so she turned to social media.
“That’s the only way to get these companies’ attention,” Eliseo said.
On Twitter, Eliseo realized she was not alone. In April, a frequent Lyft rider identified only as Paul said he was charged $80 for reportedly spilling a drink in his Lyft.
“I wrote to them and I said, ‘What was this for?’ and they said this is for having an open container of beer in the car and spilling it,” said Paul, who denied the claim.
Chris Elliott, who runs the consumer advocacy blog Elliott Advocacy, says he’s seen a recent uptick in these Lyft damage scams.
“It is the perfect scam because it’s very difficult to disprove that you’ve smoked in a car or you’ve spilled a drink,” he said.
“They all are very similar — they involve someone taking a ride — usually just a short ride — they get out, and then there’s a charge on their card,” Elliott explained. “They send you the photos, and they charge you, and there’s really nothing you can do about it.”
He says some Lyft drivers see the scam as easy money.
To avoid becoming a victim, Elliott says: “When you get in the car, take a picture, and when you get out of the car, take a picture. Also, engage in some conversation with the driver; establish some rapport. I would say it’s far less likely that your driver is going to report you for a false damage claim if you have a rapport.”
If you do find yourself facing a damage claim, ask for photos and to see the report. If all else fails, reach out to your bank and file a fraud claim.
“Fortunately, my bank did refund me after disputing the charge and saying it was like a scam and fraudulent, they refunded it back,” Eliseo said. “It’s like it really isn’t the bank’s responsibility to do that. It’s Lyft’s.”
NewsNation reached out to Lyft to find out what it’s doing to protect customers, but the company did not respond to a request for comment.