When Uber China merged with local rival Didi Chuxing last month, it seemed that the US firm had found an answer to its troubles in a country where it was losing $1 billion per year. But now that its financial issues have been taken care of, there’s a new problem for it to deal with: “ghost drivers.”
The name doesn’t refer to the undead rising from their graves and shuttling passengers around; it’s actually a scam being carried out by some Chinese Uber drivers. Several publications in the country have reported that customers in Tianjin, Qingdao, Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou have canceled their rides after seeing their pickup drivers’ creepy profile pictures.
Those who cancel the journey before the vehicle turns up are charged a small fee that goes to the driver. But even when their appearance isn’t enough to scare a customer away, the drivers have been carrying out other scams. These include “starting” the trips before passengers get into the cars (ghost rides), or the drivers accepting rides and never actually showing up, leaving customers to cancel the journey and pay the fine.
Uber said it is aware of the problem and has “zero-tolerance attitude to scamming behavior.” The company uses a driver-side facial recognition feature in China to periodically checks that the person driving is the same one who created the account, but it seems the ghost drivers have found a way to circumvent the system – unless they really are all zombies, spirits, and vampires.
“We have taken immediate actions and banned these reported individual fraud accounts while continuing to investigate and crack down on any fraudulent behavior to protect rider and driver interests,” an Uber spokesperson told Quartz.