This sick billing hustle targets Uber passengers

This Uber-related scam might not be the kind of thing you want to read about over breakfast, but here’s a warning anyway: Watch out for vomit fraud.

First reported by the Miami Herald, this really unpleasant scam has prompted an outpouring on social media from Uber passengers around the country who say they also have been targeted.

What’s happening is that customers who have recently used Uber are receiving notice from the company about an “adjustment” in their bill. The extra charge, the company says, is to cover the cost of cleaning up the vehicle.

Unscrupulous drivers are apparently submitting photos of digestive contents spilled on their seat, and pinpointing customers who they say are responsible. The company is charging those customers anywhere from $80 to $150 to pay for the cleaning.

Uber told the Miami Herald it is “actively looking into reports where fraud may be detected and will take appropriate actions on those accounts.”

The company said it didn’t have numbers on fraud cases but that “the vast majority of cleaning fee reports are legitimately the result of someone making a mess in the car. In the instances where we find a confirmed case of fraud, we take appropriate action.

“With 15 million trips a day, Uber is unfortunately not immune to these types of incidents.”

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On the good news front: Twenty-one members of a huge India-based fraud in which scammers posed as Internal Revenue Service and other government agents received sentences of up to 20 years during a series of hearings in Houston this month.

They were accused of defrauding people of hundreds of millions of dollars from a network of call centers in India.

Victims were told they faced arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay back taxes and fines by using debit or gift cards or by wire. After the payment was made, U.S.-based “runners” would launder the extorted money as quickly as possible, according to the Justice Department. The runners typically earned a specific fee or a percentage of the funds in the scam.

A group of the defendants was ordered to pay about $9 million in restitution, while the federal judge also ordered forfeiture of $73 million in assets seized in the case.

The sentences “should serve as a strong deterrent to anyone considering taking part in similar scams, and I hope that they provide a sense of justice to the victims, as well,” said Derek N. Benner, acting executive director of Homeland Security Investigations.

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If you purchased something from Amazon on Prime Day on July 10 – and even if you didn’t – you might be targeted for a fake email that looks like it’s from the company.

The Identity Theft Resource Center is warning that people have been getting legitimate-looking emails, asking them to review an item they purchased on Prime Day, an annual “retail holiday” when Amazon offers slashed prices on a wide variety of popular goods.

The email has a link to click on so you can leave a review and win a $50 bonus. There is no mention of the particular item you supposedly ordered “because the scammer doesn’t actually know what you purchased,” the ID theft group says.

Actually, Amazon doesn’t pay customers to review items. If you click on the link, you will be redirected to a clone of Amazon that steals your login credentials, the group says.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.