Uber was hit Monday when regulators in London refused to issue operating licences to the company for passenger safety reasons,media CNET reported. The biggest problem cited by lawmakers was the use of false identities by drivers in transporting unsuspecting passengers.
According to Transport for London, Uber has allowed unauthorized drivers to pick up passengers, a violation that has been carried out at least 14,000 times. Here’s how it works: Many drivers share an account where unauthorized drivers upload photos of themselves to the accounts of other Uber drivers. Unauthorized drivers often pretend to pass censorship, permits and insurance.
The problem of fraudulent Uber drivers has proved not limited to London. Other cities, including San Francisco, Houston and Boston, have seen unauthorized drivers, including convicted felons. Drivers are reported to sometimes use someone else’s driver’s license and Social Security number to register for a ride. Other times, they use false identities. In some cases, they bought false identities on the Internet.
“It’s not difficult for bad actors to get around Uber’s registration process because it’s designed to get drivers on the job as quickly as possible and avoid as much trouble as possible.” Harry Campbell, who runs the popular Rideshare Guy blog, says. Uber sometimes uses ‘selfie authentication’ to verify the driver’s identity, but it’s not clear how accurate this approach is. “
Both Uber and Lyft have come under fire for safety. Over the past few years, hundreds of passengers and drivers have claimed to have been attacked while on the bus. To address this issue, Uber has steadily added new security features to its app. For example, it introduces an emergency 911 button to “hide” the exact pick-up and drop-off location of passengers, making it easier for passengers to share information with friends and family. Jamie Heywood, Uber’s general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said the company set standards for ride safety in London.
“Over the past two months, we have reviewed every driver in London and further strengthened our processes,” he said in an emailed statement. We have robust systems and checks to confirm the identity of the driver and will soon introduce a new facial matching program, which we believe is the first time london taxi and taxi services have adopted such a procedure. “
The company said it was constantly updating its technology and processes to prevent fraud. In addition to conducting manual audits with fraud detection agents, Uber said it would use automated machine learning systems to analyze more than 600 signals indicating fraud.
Uber made headlines in August after a driver in Melbourne, Australia, pleaded guilty to sending a drunk passenger home and raping her. The driver was reportedly using a friend’s Uber account to cheat while working for the taxi service.
City regulators across the United States have also found drivers using false identities. A Houston driver who reportedly passed Uber’s background check in 2015 allegedly had 24 pseudonyms, five birthdays, 10 Social Security numbers and a valid arrest warrant.
In 2017, Colorado regulators found that Uber allowed 57 “problem drivers” to engage in driving services into its network. One of the drivers was convicted felons and repeat offenders who used false identities to register the app. Similarly, convicted murderers in Los Angeles used false identities to join the taxi service.
Also in 2017, when Massachusetts regulators began conducting background checks on drivers, they found that 51 drivers who drove Uber and Lyft had been sex offenders. At the time, lawmakers also found a Boston driver who registered with Uber under a pseudonym and allegedly raped a passenger.
Earlier this year, the Bay Area’s investigative department found that unlicensed drivers could bypass Uber and Lyft background checks by using stolen identities. In addition, some people sell taxi service accounts to potential drivers who want to hide their identities in online chat groups. Using this type of scam, unauthorized drivers’ profile picture and license plate number will match the content sin from the app, making it easy to trick passengers. Uber said it had disabled several of its accounts after learning of the issue.
Campbell said he heard that some drivers were buying fake identities on the dark web and applying to Uber for the documents. He has also heard of driver-sharing accounts like London. When you have a platform the size of Uber, he says, it’s bound to happen.
“Most of the pick-up runs smoothly,” Campbell said. But when you have 45,000 drivers in the City of London, it’s important to design a system that can assume that some of them will try and take advantage of it. “
Lyft declined to comment.