Fraudsters are using the app to create entire networks built on rides that never occur to extract real cash from stolen credit cards
RUSSIAN fraudsters are hijacking Uber in collaboration with crooked drivers to launder dirty money.
The intricate scam sees the tricksters act as middlemen for clients – organising “ghost rides” through the Uber app that never take place.
The client pays for these non-existent journeys using stolen credit cards.
And – once Uber takes its standard cut from what it thinks is a legitimate ride – the customer, the con-artist and the driver make away with the now clean money.
Several Russian forum posts, spotted by The Daily Beast, detail how the dodgy plot works.
They also include ads seeking corrupt Uber drivers, according to The Next Web.
The technical part of the scam sees the trickster use an emulator (a piece of software that allows them to run a virtual Android phone on their laptop) as well as a virtual private network (VPN).
The latter switches their machine’s location to the same city as the client/passenger.
Now, the trickster is essentially ready to act as the ‘ghost Uber’ dispatcher, with a roster of crooked drivers on his beck and call.
He then orders trips through the app, while communicating details of the ride outside of it.
Typically, the fraudulent middleman uses the Telegram app to chat with the passenger, who provides the pickup and drop-off locations.
The scammer then replies with the details of the corrupt chauffeur (including the make of car, driver name, and license plate).
Judging by forum posts, the client forks out for the illicit service through Russian payment sites, such as Qiwi, Yandex.Money or Sberbank.
In one of these online threads, a trickster boasts that their service runs in 20 cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as Kiev in Ukraine and Minsk in Belarus.
Another post indicates that similar ghost rides have been set up in New York and Portugal as well.
We reached out to Uber for comment and will update the article with its response.
A similar, but albeit less complicated, Airbnb scam was uncovered by The Daily Beast in November.
It involved con-artists extracting cash out of stolen credit cards through fake Airbnb bookings with the help of complicit hosts.
In both cases, fraudsters are manipulating online maketplaces – which are much harder to monitor – to launder money digitally.