Online car-hailing service Uber said it has suspended 30 Hong Kong drivers who allegedly took part in a “ghost ride” scam involving the use of stolen credit cards, Apple Daily reports.
An Uber driver named Ah-Keung said several drivers were recently approached by person over the Chinese mobile communication platform WeChat, offering to increase their income by giving them orders amounting to at least HK$1,000 per “ride”.
The person, who went by the WeChat name “Low-profile God”, sought 200 yuan (HK$240, US$30.85) as his “cut” on every successful transaction.
Ah-Keung said after a few Uber drivers tried the offer and found that the scheme worked, many other drivers followed suit.
Another Uber driver said “Low-profile God” appeared well-versed with Uber operations. He never showed up in person, and would only communicate and collect his cut over WeChat, the driver said.
“He would assign a driver to a specific location before placing a pseudo order, which would then be handed to the driver by the Uber app after determining that the driver is the nearest to the customer,” the driver said.
After the order is successfully assigned, the driver would just need to make a trip with no passengers onboard until the fare reaches the desired amount of over HK$1,000.
Uber requires customers to register their credit cards to pay for the rides, sparing drivers from having collect the fares in cash from their passengers, which would violate the regulations for car-hire services.
Uber takes 25 percent of the fare from each ride as commission.
But in the scam perpetrated by “Low-profile God”, the credit cards used to pay for the “ghost” hires were all stolen from overseas and mainland China, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.
Many transactions have gone through without arousing any suspicion from Uber, the report said.
It was only lately that owners of the stolen credit cards came to realize that their cards had been illegally used and Uber also spotted an unusual number of large-amount car fares within a short period of time.
Uber suspended the 30 drivers after conducting investigations.
One of the suspended drivers, named Louis, showed up at the Uber headquarters in Central on Wednesday.
He criticized Uber managers for failing to perform their role as gatekeepers, thus allowing criminal syndicates to exploit loopholes in the system.
Louis said the drivers were not to blame because they did not get to pick up customers and orders, which were all assigned through Uber’s app.
A spokesperson for Uber said the company is taking the case very seriously, but did not say if it has reported it to the police.
The spokesperson said the company has been gathering evidence and will present the results of the investigations in due time.
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