While “vomit fraud” might sound like a nonsense phrase you’d find in a spam email subject line, it’s actually a real thing. In fact, it’s the latest Uber scam to hit riders in Miami, Florida, resulting in Uber riders being hit with a $150 fee. Drivers use fake photos of someone who’s puked all over the back seat of their car, request a cleaning fee and pocket the funds. And it’s not just happening in Miami — vomit fraud happens all over the world.
This vomit fraud Uber scam is relatively simple. The unscrupulous Uber driver drives their passenger to their destination normally. The fare is charged and the passenger goes on their way. But then, the driver claims the passenger made a huge mess in the back seat and sends Uber a photograph as proof. Despite being an old photo, or otherwise not accurate, Uber accepts this as proof and “adjusts” the passenger’s bill. Some not-so-observant Uber passengers might be unaware the adjustment even took place.
According to Uber policy, if a rider spills a drink or other substance in the back of a car, they’re on the hook for an $80 fee. But if that mess involves bodily fluids — like urine, vomit or blood — the fee goes up to $150. The fee is supposed to go for professional cleaning as well as the driver’s lost time. Given how Uber drivers are often underpaid, many drivers will take the fee and do the dirty work themselves.
Obviously the policy is valid. Passengers shouldn’t get to puke and run — and cleaning someone else’s vomit is nearly the textbook definition of “not a fun time.” But $150 is a significant amount of money to pay when no one’s actually befouled a vehicle.
Vomit fraud is relatively hard to fight against as well. If a passenger notices the extra charge on their bill, they’ll try to contact Uber. Generally, according to the Miami Herald, Uber will reply with something like, “I understand that it can be disconcerting to receive adjustments to the tariff after your trip ended. … In this case, your driver notified us that during your trip there was an incident in the vehicle and therefore a cleanup fee of $150 was added,” along with photos of the “incident.” The Herald says vomit fraud victims will often have to send three or four emails to Uber to convince the company to investigate the claim.
One victim of the new Uber scam tells the Herald that every time she emailed the company, she spoke with a new representative who favored the driver. She ultimately disputed the charge with her credit card company; Uber cancelled her account.