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Lyft and Uber's vomit fraud problem is less and more gross than it sounds

Ride-hailing drivers are starting to falsify damage claims to increase their profits.

Your next Uber or Lyft ride might end up being a lot more expensive than you think!
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Vomit fraud. Nope, not the name of a new, particularly unpleasant metal band, it's a trend that's apparently growing among ride-hailing service drivers in which they falsely report damages to their vehicle and charge customers in excess of $100.

Not sure what we're talking about? We'll explain. When customers use a ride-hailing service like Lyft or Uber and throw up because they've had too much to drink, or spill food all over because they're not good at life, that constitutes damage to a driver's personal vehicle. The Lyft and Uber terms of service allow drivers, in these instances, to report the incident and the service will bill the customer's on-file credit card a fee for cleaning.

In a perfect world, that's where it would end. But some drivers are going further and defrauding riders out of these fees by filing false claims for vehicle damage. The worst part is that there is often little in the way of recourse for riders hit with these lofty fees unless they somehow managed to grab video of their ride. Even if the driver's account is proved false, there apparently isn't much that Lyft or Uber are willing to do about it.

The Miami Herald recently investigated this phenomenon and found that while it's been repeatedly denounced on social media, it is becoming increasingly common in cities like Miami. The interesting thing is that the ride-hailing companies require photographic proof of an incident so many of these drivers are using various foodstuffs to fake vomit. The creativity is almost admirable. Almost.

"Participating in fraudulent activity of any kind is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines. We are constantly evaluating our processes and technology related to these claims and will take appropriate action whenever fraud may be detected," said an Uber representative, in a statement.

What remains to be seen is whether the companies involved move to make these claims harder to substantiate to curb this phenomenon, or whether they'll side with the drivers and keep things as they are.

Lyft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Updated 8/13/18 4:10 P.M.: Added comment from Uber representatives.