Exclusive: How Uber fights against scammers plaguing the platform

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The VTC giant has opened its doors, offering them an exclusive look at its endless fight against cyber criminals.

For a while, crooks took advantage of UBER’s weaknesses to line their pockets with stolen credit cards. Using well-established and above all very effective stratagems, they would extract as much money as possible from the American giant. Their methods included the use of GPS-spoofing apps, as well as messengers offering bogus discounts to Uber users. Many of them have been affected over the years.

Online scams have been around since the internet became more democratic. They usually arrive in your emails, affecting millions of victims, but as technology advances, so does fraud. Uber, and ridesharing apps, give crooks new possibilities. They’ve found creative ways to generate money through Uber, such as some Chinese drivers who use disturbing images in profile photos to pocket cancellation fees.

Uber has used machine-learning artificial intelligence tools to keep pace with the crooks, drawing on data from the millions of people who use the app every day. Ting Chen, “data science manager” at Uber, claims to have had more than 600 signals warning him of new scams.

GPS Spoofing

One of the most common scams was GPS identity theft, in which fraudsters used two phones, one as a new driver and one as a passenger. The new account was linked to a stolen credit card and requests a ride, which the scammer accepts using the driver account.

But the “ride” never goes anywhere. Both phones have GPS spoofing apps, which trick the app. “They can sit in their homes and use the app to simulate a trip, and on Uber’s side, everything looks like a real ride,” Chen says.

It’s a way of pocketing pocket money through stolen credit cards, essentially using Uber as a money laundering service. The crooks make as many trips as possible. If they do this often enough, the crooks also end up stealing money from Uber’s bounty programs. For example, the company offers $ 500 to drivers who complete 125 trips in a day. It may sound like a lot, but for a con artist who can complete races without moving by clicking on their screen, it is very easy.

The GPS spoofing scam was so prevalent that thieves even gave instructions on the Dark Web according to Motherboard. Some drivers have even used this scam to increase the price of the races.

False reductions

Another type of scam: false reductions. Scammers go to forums, or chat apps like WeChat, offering discounts on rides. The victim thinks this is a harmless deal and pays the thief instead of using Uber directly.

The scammer keeps the victim’s money and uses a stolen credit card to order the ride through Uber’s app. Once the credit card is declared stolen, it is too late for the driver and the card owner. Uber nevertheless covers all losses, if the scam is reported.

Machine learning to the rescue

Due to the frequency of scam attempts, Uber has to rely on machine learning to deal with the problem. Regarding GPS spoofing, the company eventually noticed a major flaw in the crooks’ tactics. “They had very weird elevation levels, these trips were flying in the sky.” So Uber started to compare the altitudes of the trips, and when that didn’t add up, that meant it was a fraud.

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