In a lot of ways, Uber has made traveling much easier. Instead of having to try to communicate in a foreign language to a driver who knows the city much better than you ever will (and can use it to their advantage if they want), we can now simply open up our Uber app, type in our destination (in English!) and hail a car without ever even needing to speak to the driver. It’s pretty amazing.

And since I find that getting in a taxi is generally the easiest way to get ripped off in a foreign country, you better bet that I use Uber pretty much any time it’s available.

But what happens when Uber rips you off? And in this case, I don’t mean an Uber driver, but the Uber app itself. Let me tell you what happened, how I was able to get it resolved, and my plans going forward.

How To Avoid Getting Scammed By Uber

The Situation

I was in Madrid and needed to take an Uber to the airport for my flight home. I typed in ‘MAD Airport,’ saw that the correct location came up on my app with a reasonable price of 21 Euros, and ordered the Uber to my hotel. The Uber showed up, the driver loaded the bags, and we were on our way to the airport. When we were a few minutes out, the driver asked which terminal he should go to, and I replied ‘4S.’

Now, since Madrid isn’t a city I’ve spent much time in, I didn’t realize that terminal 4S is actually quite a distance away from the other terminals. In the past, when I request an Uber ride to or from an airport, I am generally presented with a drop-down list of terminal options, but in this case, that did not happen. When the driver ‘re-routed’ to drop off at terminal 4S, the fixed fare got voided, and I was charged a higher price of 35 Euros.

While it really wasn’t that much more money, I hate it when companies get away with these bait-and-switch tactics, so I contacted Uber Support through the app by indicating that there was something wrong with the amount I was charged.

Uber ride to Madrid Airport
T4 Madrid Barajas AS airport is located at 12km distance from downtown. It is the main Spanish airport being the 15th in passengers’ traffic. 

How It Was Resolved

Sadly, Uber Support was less than helpful. They insisted that I had changed my route in the app and eventually started ignoring my messages by marking the issue as resolved, even though it wasn’t.

So, I took to Twitter. I often find that Twitter is a great way to get issues resolved, even though I don’t really enjoy using the platform to complain. But when all else fails, I’ll give it a go. A number of people retweeted my Tweet to Uber, so they did respond to me and offered to follow up via email.

My Plans Going Forward

Going forward, I definitely still intend to use Uber, but I will be very careful with destination selections that could be deemed ambiguous. I won’t just select that I am going to an airport anymore, but will make sure that my destination is actually the correct terminal before I order my Uber up.

Tweet to Uber
Tweet to Uber.  Sending tweets to companies who ignore customer complains is way more helpful than in-app support or calling their customer hotlines.

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Common Rideshare Scams to Watch Out For and How to Avoid Them

Uber, Lyft, and other popular ride-sharing apps are an amazing way to get around. Whether you’re in your home country, or somewhere else, having the ability to order an affordable ride using your credit card makes it easy and safe to get around. However, nothing is ever perfect. There are drivers who may try to take advantage of you. While not common, it can happen. Here are some suggestions on avoiding scams.

Common Rideshare Scams to Watch Out For and How to Avoid Them
Be mindful when you use ride-sharing apps. They are usually super helpful for travelers, and the drivers are usually very respectful, but every now and then you might run into trouble.

1. Research

First, if you are traveling to a new place you should always do a bit of research before you arrive. Wikitravel is a great resource for many destinations. Usually, it will mention common scams in that area that are related to taxis or ride-sharing apps. Asking friends or family for advice is helpful too.

2. Drivers Insisting on Cash Payments

Part of the point of Uber and other ride-shares is that you can pay with a credit card. This is perfect for arriving at an airport without having cash handy. However, some drivers will insist that you pay with cash so they can cancel the ride on the app. This is usually what they do so they can upcharge you to make more money. If this happens to you, you can always refuse and cancel the ride. In some countries, however, Uber is technically illegal, so you may have to pay in cash regardless.

paying with credit card when using uber, ride-share, lyft, grab and others
Taxi driver receiving payment by credit card

3. Drivers Who Are Not From Uber Suggesting That You Get In the Car

There have been reports of drivers who do not work with Uber, Lyft, or another ride-sharing app, showing up at airports and asking that you cancel your ride and pay them cash instead. Do not get into the car of someone who you cannot confirm is working for the app! The best way to track who is picking you up is by double-checking the license plate number. You should also compare photos of the person’s face, if provided, and call them by their name when they greet you.

4. The Ride Doesn’t End After You Are Dropped Off

When you get dropped off, you should always make sure that the driver has marked the trip as completed on the app. Otherwise, they will continue to drive around and make money off of a trip that has otherwise ended. You should be able to contact support and have this adjusted if this happens to you.

5. Drivers Take the Long Way

Sometimes drivers like to take the long way in order to rack up long-distance fees, which results in them getting paid more for the ride. Luckily you are able to view the exact route that a driver takes. If you can compare to Google Maps and confirm that they are taking an extra-long route, you can dispute the route to the app you are using in order to get a refund.

Be mindful when you use ride-sharing apps. They are usually super helpful for travelers, and the drivers are usually very respectful, but every now and then you might run into trouble.

How To Avoid Getting Scammed By Uber
Ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber pickup spot at the airport

Bottom Line

I’m glad that Uber refunded me the difference between what I was quoted and what I was charged, but I am disappointed at how their in-app customer support treated me. I’ve heard of many similar cases of customers not actually being supported with Uber. That said, I’m going to continue using Uber where it makes sense to, but for trips in markets with other ridesharing companies like Lyft or Grab, I will not use Uber unless the other prices are much higher.

Are you a fan of Uber when you’re traveling?

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About the Author

In 2011, with a four-week trip around Europe, Caroline became a true road warrior, and there’s been no stopping her since. Caroline likes to mix roughing it and luxury on her travels, sometimes staying in five-star hotels and other times in hostels. Her mantra: splurge on experiences! She enjoys traveling to new countries (and hopes to visit all 193 someday!), trying local foods, and meeting people from around the world. A few travel highlights so...

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12 Responses to “How To Avoid Getting Scammed By Uber + My Personal Story”


In this instance, no one was scammed, the rider changed the destination. How is this Uber’s fault? Even when in a foreign country one should do some cursory research on where they need to travel.

A simple Google search, or asking hotel staff one would have discovered there’s a free train from the domestic to international terminals at MAD.

It is important for the rider to put in their full destination. The terminal you were going to was further away, by your own admission. I am not sure why Uber should be responsible for you not being aware of the different terminals/locations. I regularly travel and enter the terminal where I am going and haven’t encountered a problem.

Great tips and good to know about the exact Terminal at the airport. Thanks so much for sharing.
Also glad you persisted and didn’t let their Customer Service get away with ignoring you. Twitter rocks!

You think Uber support is bad? Hopefully you never need to contact Lyft support they are much worse. It also does state in Uber and Lyft rider app if you make changes to destination you may be charged more. Your best bet is to put the correct destination in. At most airports drivers know that riders dont always put the correct terminal in. Thats why we ask when we get there what Airline or Terminal. Cant speak for every driver in every country but most will not ask you to change the terminal. We get paid until the rides ends so if your terminal is a mile from the terminal you chose we will still get paid for that mile and the few wxtra min:)

Just wanted to make a comment on this because unless your drop off location is 10 miles more or so the charge shouldn’t have been that much more. Therefore, I don’t really think it’s a bait and switch. You chose the wrong location. Another thing, the drivers can’t change your destination on the app. He simply took you where you want to get dropped off and the app will simply charge you the extra miles and time and maybe additional for pickup fee and service fee. I am a driver in the USA for several years now and I’ve never had this happen to me. Most people are glad we know the area and will accommodate the rider if the destination location chosen is not right. And since you got charged more there goes the driver’s tip. Ugh..

AGREE with you Caroline! I use Uber in Rio when I visit family and its super helpful and reasonable… except for some instances. But it’s just like your experience with customer service that ticked me off and I had no where to turn… GREAT tip btw! Thanks Caroline and happy travels!
-Jon from RIO.

So I took several rides in Vegas recently and everything was fine and what I was quoted was what I was charged. I then took one last trip to the airport and was quoted 14.81 then when my final charge was 21.85. I was charged extra fee’s! I was never charged a booking fee or an airport charge in any of the other rides including the pick up from the airport. So why this time and why wasn’t I informed of this? This is a huge jump in price! I emailed and never heard back!

Base Fare $1.50
Time $4.76
Distance $8.55

Subtotal $14.81
Booking Fee $3.25
LAS Airport Surcharge $2.60
3% Transportation Recovery Charge $0.62

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