At least 40 Uber and Lyft drivers have been robbed during rides in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn this spring, and police say the same three people are responsible. In many cases, the robbers are using the drivers' own devices—exploiting a feature in the ride-hail companies' apps—to steal their money.
Police say drivers began reporting the ride-hail robberies in the beginning of April. Investigators believe the group has allegedly requested 40 different rides through apps, and when they get into the cars, police say "the unidentified individuals proceed to state to the taxi drivers that they wished to change destinations but that their phones are not working. The unidentified individuals then request to use the taxi drivers' phones in order to input the new destinations."
Then, while using the drivers' phones, the suspects access the drivers' accounts and transfer their earnings to other accounts. Police say the suspects have "removed the drivers' phones by threat of force" several times.
WNYC's Arun Venugopal spoke to one victim in May: Lyft driver Kaymiul Uddin described how during a ride with two passengers, one man asked to make a stop while the other got out to run an errand:
The remaining passenger, according to Uddin, said he and his companion would be heading to a different destination than the one they'd originally requested. Uddin offered to update the address on his own phone.
"And as I went to type, he leaned over from the back, [and] snatched the phone out my hand," said Uddin.
"What they were able to do was end the ride, go to my payout information, change the debit card information—there's an express pay option where you can pay yourself daily—they changed that to some random debit card, and Lyft having no security for that, they ended up cashing out my earnings."
Uddin got his phone back but lost $292.
The NYPD released video of the suspects leaving an Audi SUV parked across from 364 West 121st Street. In this incident, they allegedly asked to use the Lyft driver's tablet to confirm their information, but then fled the car after returning the tablet. The driver later discovered that money had been transferred out of his account, according to police.
In spite of numerous calls from Uddin to Lyft, Lyft only reimbursed Uddin after Gothamist/WNYC reported on his plight two weeks later.
The suspects are described as being between 16 and 25 years old; one was last seen wearing a black baseball hat, a multicolored hooded sweatshirt, and light blue jeans, another was last seen wearing a backwards black baseball hat and a black hooded sweatshirt, and the third was last seen wearing a black do-rag, black sweatshirt, and headphones.
On Wednesday, WCBS reported that Uber claims its technology "makes it difficult to transfer money to unknown accounts, especially while in a moving car. Lyft has deactivate[d] the passengers’ accounts and reimbursed the drivers."
Anyone with information in regard to the identity of these individuals is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.