Before we can look at ways to protect ourselves, let’s first look at what the greatest dangers are. Once we know the dangers, then it’s easy to figure out the best way to protect ourselves from them.
First, there are two types of dangers. There are knowable and preventable dangers, and there are unknowable and unpreventable dangers. A knowable danger would be something like knowingly getting into an Uber with the wrong driver. An unknowable danger would be getting into the right car, but with an Uber driver who was carrying a concealed weapon.
Getting into the wrong car
Getting into the wrong car is not only a knowable danger, it is an easily preventable one as well. It’s also an extremely serious danger. At least one person we know of lost her life as a direct result of getting into the wrong car. She got into a car she thought was her Uber, but neither the license plate number, nor the car make or model matched the vehicle the Uber app told her the driver would show up in. So, this is one danger you do not want to ignore. It can indeed be a very dangerous mistake to make.
There are several types of situations where you may be induced into getting into the wrong car. The first and most dangerous type of situation is when someone who is not an Uber driver but is impersonating one. There have been many stories of passengers who have been picked up by people pretending to be their Uber driver — who didn’t drive for Uber at all.
If you find yourself in that type of situation, count yourself lucky, because all they want is your money. It could have been much worse. There are other driver impersonators who have truly evil intentions. They impersonate drivers as an easy way to get strangers into their cars so they can rape, molest and/or murder them. This has happened many times.
The bottom line is that for a variety of reasons, in practice, people don’t do this even though they know they should. So, I want to urge you to always do it — even when you’re 99.99% sure it’s not necessary.
If someone who isn’t an Uber drive pulls up and tries to trick you into believing he’s the driver you are waiting for, he will never be able to pull the wool over your eyes if you have checked to verify that his license plate number matches up with the one you were shown on the Uber app.
My wife and I have gotten into the habit of checking this every time and we have been surprised to learn that about 5% of the time the license plate and the car description don’t match up. In those cases, the driver did receive our call through the Uber app and he did know our names. But, whether or not he actually worked for Uber is another question. We never found out, because we didn’t get into those cars.