With advancements in technology, so too come advancements in scams and deception. Nefariousness always seems to evolve with the times. And in times as strange as these, it should come as no surprise that one of the freshest hustles to hit the street is known as “Vomit Fraud” — and it could cost you in excess of $100 next time you use a ride-hailing service like Lyft or Uber.

It all starts with a normal car ride. You order a Lyft/Uber, climb into the car when it arrives, have a cordial ride to wherever it is you’re heading to, get dropped off and go about your business. Everything seems right and just in the world — yet the problem doesn’t rear its ugly head until the following day when you check your credit or debit account and discover that a $12.34 charge from the night prior has been jacked up to $152.34.

WTF? You might wonder. And, confused, you’ll go to the company’s “Help” button (on the app or website), intent on getting to the bottom of this excessively expensive ride. And here’s roughly what they’ll tell you:

“I understand that it can be disconcerting to receive adjustments to the tariff after your trip ended … In this case, your driver notified us that during your trip there was an incident in the vehicle and therefore a cleanup fee of $150 was added.”

In other words, your driver from last night, that sleazy chump, reported that you yakked all over his whip. That cleaning fee you’re seeing, is what it apparently cost that poor bastard to properly scrub your gut-chowder out of the seats.

They will likely also include photos of your alleged belly bomb, to jog your memory of the event.

Here’s the thing, though: you didn’t vomit. Not even a little bit. Hell, you didn’t even burp in that car! So, what gives? The hell is this cleaning fee? And who’s responsible for the vomit in that picture?!

As for the cleaning fee: it’s bullshit. Obviously. And as for the vomit, well, the story behind that we may never know. Because, here’s what happened: your driver, after dropping you off, reported to the company that you had defiled his car with bodily fluid, and sent a picture of said fluid in said car, as evidence of his claim. It may be an old photo. Maybe it actually was a passenger’s bile. Maybe it was the driver’s. Or, maybe it was just fake …

Regardless, the driver pockets a big chunk of your change, and you, the passenger, the customer, are wrongly accused of spewing chunks you never spewed. What follows, if you want your money back, is typically a pain in the ass, according to victims of the scam.

It usually takes a number of conversations with managers and representatives to resolve the situation, they say. Lyft or Uber must be notified quickly of the dispute, then they’ll start an investigation into the situation and get back to you. Sometimes they will refund the money. Sometimes they won’t.

“With 15 million trips a day, Uber is unfortunately not immune to these types of incidents,” the company told el Nuevo Herald.

While Uber did say that they are actively looking into solutions to mitigate this problem, they also noted that most of the cleaning fees they charge are legitimate and well-founded. People do vomit in their rides, after all, and the drivers need to be protected from that somehow.

But, so do The People — the passengers need protection from Vomit Fraud, just as much as the drivers need protection from actual vomit. There has to be some kind of middle-ground where no one’s getting the upchuck end of the stick.

We aren’t there yet though. As of now, the danger of being Vomit Frauded is as high as it’s ever been. So, stay vigilant out there, riders! Check your bank statements and Uber/Lyft charges after your ride, and try to be a decent, polite passenger (who doesn’t puke). Until technology or policy comes along to counteract this strange modern mischief, that’s really the best way to protect yourself against unfounded accusations of regurgitation and unreasonable cleaning fees.

That, or just take a cab. LOL.

[cover photo Anna via Flickr]