NEW YORK — Sisters Dasia and Shenisha Mitchell had just gotten off working the late shift at Macy’s in Herald Square on Dec. 28 and were taking a Lyft home to Brooklyn.
The driver stopped to pick up a young couple. The woman sat up front. Suddenly, just over the Brooklyn Bridge, the young woman threw up out the window.
The driver stopped.
“He said they had to pay $250 in damages,” Dasia told PIX11.
Fortunately, she also snapped some pictures. Because the next day she looked at the trip receipt she’d been e-mailed and it included a damage fee of $100.
Dasia sent Lyft her photos. But a company representative responded, “The driver’s claim is valid with photos showing clear damage….the driver identified you as the damaging passenger.”
Also, fortunately for Dasia, the woman who vomited was Asian. Dasia is black.
“I clearly know that I do not look like a young Asian woman.”
Dasia exchanged emails with Lyft for three days before the company agreed to refund the $100 cleaning fee. But Dasia was suspicious. She thinks the driver was trying to pull a fast one and pocket some extra cash.
“Maybe they collected from them when he dropped them off and then tried to collect from me. But that was not happening.”
Dasia’s suspicions got us curious. We started poking around and found out there’s an emerging scam: ride service drivers making phony damage claims. It’s actually called “Vomit Fraud.”
Sometimes drivers may use plastic vomit which is for sale all over the web. Some drivers have been caught staging photos by planting bogus barf.
Lyft took no action against the driver in the case of the Mitchell sisters. But both Lyft and Uber say drivers caught committing “vomit fraud” are removed. They also say that almost all cleaning fees are legitimate.
As for the sisters, they say they’re done using ride services.
And what can you do to protect yourself from the scamming drivers who are out there? Avoid low-rated drivers, snap a photo or two of the car when you exit and always check your receipts.
If you’ve got a problem or a story for me, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.