Rideshare stickers like Uber and Lyft cost about $9 and include free two-day shipping on Amazon.com. That means anyone can buy these stickers, put them on their car and pretend to be a Lyft or Uber driver.
Though drivers go through extensive background checks to ensure riders’ safety according to Uber’s website, there are still individuals who are able to buy these stickers and trick people into getting into their cars and end up harming the riders or even killing them.
That is what happened to 21-year-old college student Samantha Josephson. On May 29, 2019, Josephson got into a car she mistakenly thought was her Uber. Police arrested 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland after Josephson’s body was found later that afternoon in a rural area located about an hour away from her pick up spot.
So how do you stay safe while using Uber? Here are some tips provided by Uber’s website on how to make sure you’re getting into the right car.
Request your ride inside the building.
“Avoid spending unnecessary time outside alone with your phone in your hand,” Ubers says on the safety guidelines. “Instead, wait indoors until the app shows your driver has arrived.”
People like Rowland could see you outside on your phone and will be able to see you requesting a ride. And if you are waiting on the curb, they will be able to pull up to you and be able to target you a lot easier than if you were inside waiting for the notification of the arrival of your driver.
“I have to Uber frequently because I can’t have a car on campus, so safety is a very important concern for me,” PLNU freshman Zoe McFarlane says.
Get in the right car.
Before getting in a marked Uber car, you should check for three things. Check that their license plate matches, their name and picture match with everything on your app. There’s a movement at the University of South Carolina which started after Josephson’s death and the university’s president, Harris Pastides, wrote a letter to students urging rideshare users to ask their driver “What’s my name?”
Now the hashtag #WhatsMyName is spreading all throughout social media platforms. Asking this question will ensure that this driver is here for you rather than just trusting the sticker on the back of their car.
“Uber rides can only be requested through the app, so never get in a car with a driver who claims to be with Uber and offers a ride,” Uber’s guidelines say.
Share your trip details with a friend.
Uber says on its website that it wants its users to take full advantage of the safety features that the app provides like the “Share Status” option. This allows the app user to share the route, ETA and information about the driver with friends and family.
Follow your intuition.
Just follow your gut. If things don’t feel right about the driver, don’t get in the car and get a new ride. If you feel uncomfortable, you don’t need to ride with him/her and you can also report the driver to Uber or Lyft and they can take action from there.
Whether it’s a ride to the movies or a ride home from a friend’s house, you should always be aware of how to rideshare as safely as you can, so another incident like the one with Josephson doesn’t happen again.
“It really saddens my heart to hear about situations like that, especially because rideshares like Uber are something that a lot of people depend on to go places,” McFarlane says. “They’re something we trust so easily.”