NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The NYPD is investigating more than three dozen robberies targeting rideshare drivers.
Police say three clever thieves struck 40 times in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan since April, stealing thousands of dollars. In some cases, the drivers didn’t even realize they were being robbed.
The suspects’ elaborate scheme involves ordering an Uber or Lyft. Once inside the car, they ask to change their destination. They say their phones aren’t working or make up an excuse to get ahold of the driver’s device, which has the Uber of Lyft app open and gives them easy access to personal information.
When they get the driver’s device, police say they transfer money right out of the driver’s rideshare account. In some cases, they allegedly stole the phone or threatened to hurt the driver.
“Computers are very sophisticated these days, and with AI and all these other advancements, it puts us at risk,” said rideshare driver Charlie Edwards.
Driver Brinto Rashed told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas he used to drive a yellow cab and was physically assaulted. Now, he drives for Uber and Lyft, and his car is equipped with a camera to record every ride.
“As a driver, when we drive with Uber or Lyft, we feel like this is more secure for us,” he said. “I will teach them a lesson, because it’s not supposed to be. I’m not giving you my phone. Get the hell out of the car. I’m not giving you the phone.”
Uber says it’s technology makes it difficult to transfer money to unknown accounts, especially while in a moving car. Lyft has deactivate the passengers’ accounts and reimbursed the drivers.
The suspects are described as 16 to 25 years old.
Anyone with any information about the robbery spree is asked to call NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) for Spanish. You can also submit a tip via the Crime Stoppers website, by Tweeting @NYPDTips or by texting a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.