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CBS2 Investigates: Fake Uber Drivers Gouge Passengers At Airports

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Aggressive fake drivers who pretend to work for Uber are convincing passengers to get into their cars – and then overcharging them.

CBS2 has learned it is happening thousands of times each week. CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer went undercover to investigate the issue at LaGuardia Airport.

One man in a purple shirt said he had a "Black Uber" sign on his vehicle. He is what officials call an illegal hustler.

CBS2 cameras caught him roaming Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport, trawling for unsuspecting customers. The first indication that he was not what he claimed to be was that he called his service "Black Uber" while real drivers call their service "Uber Black."

Kramer asked how she could pay the man, and he replied she could use a credit card or cash. The driver said it would cost $65 to get into Manhattan.

That exchange was filled with flashing warning lights that the man was not a real Uber driver.

First, passengers cannot hail an Uber at the curb – they have to be ordered with the Uber app. Second, the driver is never paid in person – charges are pre-charged to customers' credit cards. And third, officials said $65 is, no pun intended, highway robbery – a taxi to Manhattan from LaGuardia should cost no more than $40.

Another driver said it would cost $78 plus toll and tip to get to Manhattan.

Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi has received dozens of complaints about what she calls rides of horror.

"People who get into the car with the illegal hustler, the price is one thing at the beginning, halfway through the price goes up. You're now in the car. The car's moving. You say, 'I don't have enough money,' They say, 'I'm going to take you to an ATM; you have to get the rest of the money,'" Joshi said. "That's an extremely scary experience."

Joshi said while her agents try to get rid of the unlicensed drivers, many factors make it difficult – everything from the ongoing construction at LaGuardia to the fact that the penalties are not high enough.

CBS2's cameras found another reason – not enough airport security. One airport security guard admitted he was understaffed and told Kramer, "We don't have enough people,"

Uber said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey should get more aggressive.

"The Port Authority has one of the largest police departments in the country. All they have to do is walk out their front door, and they'll see this happening," said Uber New York general manager Jay Mohrer.

Mohrer wrote a complaint letter to the Port Authority estimating that there are 2,300 illegal trips to LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports every week. But there has been no response.

But with unwitting riders being asked for $78 plus tolls and tip, there is a reminder. A customer using an actual Uber said she was paying $39 for four people.

The Port Authority also refused to speak to CBS2, but in a statement said they have made 548 arrests Those arrests may or may not have been related to the thousands of Uber scam offenses.

Joshi said the best way to stop the hustlers is to increase the penalties and give out jail terms rather than just fines.

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