(NewsNation) – Consumers get wrongly and unfairly charged by Lyft drivers for damages they did not leave, according to a NewsNation investigation.
Research has found that fraud is quite common. A rider exits Lyft and receives a notice that they have been charged for car damage they did not cause. When they contested the charges, Lyft said it had been investigated, and the rider was shown a photo as proof.
On a recent trip to Miami, Emily Eliseo did what she’s done many times before: She ordered a Lyft, and the ride was short and memorable — all the way home.
“I had a notice that said I was being sued for damages,” Emily Eliseo recalled. “The driver had sent a photo 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.”
The driver said he damaged the car and even sent Lyft a picture of what Emily said looked like vomit. He tried to contact Lyft but had no luck, so he turned to social media
“That’s the only way to get the attention of this company,” Eliseo said.
On Twitter, Eliseo realized he wasn’t alone. In April, a frequent Lyft rider identified only as Paul said he was charged $80 for allegedly spilling a drink on his Lyft.
“I wrote to them and I said, ‘What is this?’ and they said this 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’s a perfect deception because it’s very difficult to argue that you smoked in the car or that you had a drink,” he said.
“They’re all very similar – they involve people getting on – usually just a short trip – they get off, and then there’s a charge on their card,” Elliott explained. “They send you photos, and they charge you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
He says some Lyft drivers see the scam as easy money.
To avoid casualties, 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 is far less likely that your driver will report you for a false damage claim if you have a rapport.
If you find yourself facing a damage claim, ask for photos and see the report. If all else fails, go to your bank and file a fraud claim.
“Fortunately, my bank returned my money after disputing the charges and saying it was like fraud and fraud, they returned it,” Eliseo said. “Like it’s really not the bank’s responsibility to do that. It’s Lyft’s.”
NewsNation reached out to Lyft to find out what it is doing to protect customers, but the company did not respond to a request for comment.