7Investigates: Is your ride share driver using someone else’s identity to pass background checks?

When we request an Uber or Lyft, we assume the person driving us is safe, because they passed a background check.

But what if the person is an impostor?

“At first, I was like, this has got to be a joke,” says Carole Cassidy, after opening a tax form saying she made more than $4,000 driving for Uber in 2019.

The problem was, Carole said, “I’ve never worked for Uber, I don’t work for them, I don’t even have the app.”

She looked closer to make sure Uber had the right person and said the document had all of the correct personal information on it.

“It had my name, my address, my correct last four digits of my social security number on it,” says Carole.

The 10-99 form says she made 278 trips.

“Somebody posing as Carole Cassidy from Somerville made 278 trips. And again, to me that’s just really scary,” says Carole.

CAROLE CASSIDY ISN’T ALONE

We spoke to a Massachusetts man who says his wife is also a victim.

“Well it’s ridiculous, this whole thing has taken off and opened our eyes to the world of identity theft.”

He asked us to hide his identity because he doesn’t know who stole his wife’s. He says the family first thought something was off after his wife received documents from Uber in March.

“What she’s staring at, is what looks like a driver’s placard for an Uber car and a couple of decals to put in the windows,” he says.

His wife never signed up to drive for Uber, but the driver certificate she received had her name on it. The picture on the ID, however, was not her. Lexington Police are investigating.

“Somehow this person who clearly doesn’t have a valid license or a social security number as it turns out after the police investigated, was able to get cleared.”

Boston Police are investigating a third case. A man said he also received an Uber driver certificate with someone else’s picture on it.

He too had never signed up with the rideshare company.

7INVESTIGATES FOUND POTENTIAL HOLES IN THE SYSTEM 

Uber says they have flagged, suspended and/or deactivated the accounts we identified but they wouldn’t tell us how this happened.

The company says every driver in the U.S. has to undergo a criminal background check, and a spokesperson tells 7NEWS, “We take all reports of fraud seriously and have more than 100 fraud detection checks placed throughout the process of creating an account, taking trips, and other account activity. This layered approach of both technical and process controls enables us to identify different types of fraud using more than 400 indicators.”

In Mass., rideshare drivers must go through a second background check by the state’s Department of Public Utilities.

But 7NEWS found this background check does not require a photo or fingerprint, making it possible to do a background check on the wrong person.

According to the DPU, “The background check process requires that the Transportation Network Company (TNC) do the initial check and intake on the driver and then, if the driver passes that first check, send basic driver information to the TNC Division to enable the Division to conduct its second background check.”

We asked if that basic driver information a TNC sends over to the state includes a photo, it does not.

ADVOCATES ASK FOR FINGERPRINTING

“Anything that can be improved relative to background checks should be done,” says Rick Szilagyi, executive director of the NE Livery Association, a non-profit that works to improve ground transportation.

He says the state should use fingerprinting as an added layer of protection.

“A fingerprint is the only way that you know you are doing a background check on the person you believe you are,” says Szilagyi.

The Department of Public Utilities is investigating the cases we identified.  We asked if they would start requiring fingerprints to prevent something like this from happening again.  They say ultimately it is the rideshare company’s responsibility, through that company’s initial background check to make sure you are who you say you are, and add that “Massachusetts is the only statewide TNC regulator in the country that conducts a second background check on TNC drivers.”

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