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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A warning tonight for people who use hi-tech ride sharing services, like Uber. Users are encountering some imposter drivers wanting to take advantage of the service’s popularity.
Uber uses a smartphone app to connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire. While make and models vary, the vehicles are often black town cars or SUVS. Customers reserve rides via the app, and fares are charged directly to credit card.
Dallas resident Josh Vandenburg says he will be more careful after an experience in Uptown a few weeks ago.
After a Friday night with friends a popular Uptown restaurant, Vandenburg used Uber to book a vehicle for a ride home around 10:30 p.m.
As he said goodbye to his friends, Vandenburg says a man walked around the front of a black SUV, parked in a line of taxis waiting for passengers along the curb.
“He said I’m your Uber driver, are you Josh?” Vandenburg recalls. The fact that the driver knew his name disarmed him, and he hopped in for a ride.
Two minutes into the ride, Vandenburg’s cell phone rang. It was his actual Uber driver, waiting for him at the restaurant.
That immediately raised a red flag.
“I said to the [man driving me], who are you? ‘He said, I’m Uber, but you pay me cash.’ I said, well that’s not how Uber works,” said Vandenburg, who knew Uber transactions are cashless.
At that point, Vandenburg says he asked the driver to pull over. Vandenburg says the driver continued to demand money.
“I felt extremely uncomfortable. We got into a shouting match. I removed myself from the situation and got out of the car and walked away,” said Vandenburg.
Vandenburg says his original Uber driver found him, and delivered him to his destination.
While it ended well, his concern is for others out there, especially women.
“The first thing I thought of was my wife – if she was in my situation. She’s gone and met some girlfriends before and taken Uber, and if she was in that situation, I don’t know which way that could have turned out,” said Vandenburg.
Aware that imposters may be trying to poach clients, an Uber spokesperson says it is extremely important that users utlize the safety features built into the app:
Uber drivers use texting to let clients know when the car arrives. Clients should also receive a photo of their driver, and a license plate number for the vehicle, so they know exactly who they are meeting.
Uber users who spoke with CBS 11 News say the photo and texting feature is familiar, but none could recall license plate numbers being provided by drivers.
Vandenburg is familiar with the safety features, having used the service many times before. He thinks the imposter driver may have overheard his conversation with friend, and picked up his name.
But first time users especially, Vandenburg says the line of taxis, SUVS and ride-sharing drivers that tend to line up at bars and restaurants the end of the night can be confusing.
He wanted to share his experience, so others can be aware, and take steps to ensure their own safety when booking rides.
“If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone at any point. There’s certain ways that these imposter drivers have been able to get around,” said Vandenburg.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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