Ride-hailing apps are a beloved convenience for users, and the firms behind them also work to provide a good source of flexible income to their drivers.
On top of the basic earning schemes, firms are trying to add value for drivers where they can, such as Grab’s tiered incentive programme and additional income channels through GrabAds, or Gojek’s fuel rebates and prolonged medical leave, to name a few.
But it’s never enough for those who crave a shortcut to earning quick bucks.
Some drivers in Singapore have reportedly been caught hacking ride-hailing apps to cheat the system.
By creating modified versions of apps like Grab and Gojek, they have been able to bypass identity verification, fake their locations, and cancel bookings without being detected.
This allows them to collect payments for jobs they don’t actually complete, or decline jobs without tainting their perfect driver ratings.
While the act of cheating payments is already serious enough, what’s more worrying is that some of these hackers can also collect customers’ private data, like their phone numbers and credit card details.
At the moment, the scale of these fraudulent incidents is unclear, with no specific numbers revealed on the cases reported or offenders caught so far.
However, The New Paper reports that there are even an online communities dedicated to providing hacking services for less savvy drivers who want a share of the spoils.
They have found advertisements that offer hacking services at monthly rates like $350 for the Grab app and $200 for the Gojek app, while promising drivers they can earn more for less hours of work.
Serious Penalties If Caught
While most are clearly setting out with ill intentions, it isn’t improbable to say some drivers, especially those who don’t do the hacking themselves, might be misled to assume this is just a “cheat code” to get around the system.
In actual fact, the consequences are heavy, as modifying a ride-hailing app to reap benefits from undetected cancellations comes as an offence under the Computer Misuse Act.
If caught, an offender can face up to S$10,000 in fines, up to 3 years in jail, or both.
Penalties can climb even steeper, depending the amount of losses caused to the ride-hailing operators like Grab and Gojek.
When losses exceed S$10,000 within a year, fines can go up to S$50,000, and jail time may rise to 7 years too.
Hackers may be further fined up to S$5,000 or jailed for up to 2 years if they are found stealing a customer’s personal data. Those who use stolen data for the purpose of committing crimes face higher penalties up to S$50,000 and jail for up to 10 years.
Ride-Hailing Firms Are Tackling Ongoing Fraud Issues
Incidents of fraud are not new for ride-hailing firms.
In May, Grab reported that drivers had been “spoofing” their locations to compete with for bookings when they are actually somewhere else, or setting up multiple accounts to falsely hit targets to unlock higher incentives.
The company also suffered more than S$41,800 in losses in a GrabHitch scam, involving 10 offenders who were arrested.
For Grab and Gojek, the issue of fraud extends far wider beyond Singapore, with even more sophisticated syndicates in countries like Indonesia.
In response to these threats, Grab has set up a Fairplay whistle-blower programme, offering drivers up to S$1,350 if they can provide information on fraud cases.
It’s also in the process of beefing up its anti-fraud team to 200 employees by the end of 2019, to act faster against hackers whose methods are constantly evolving.
A Grab spokesperson said the firm takes fraud seriously, and “will not hesitate to suspend bad actors who exhibit fraudulent behaviour on [their] platform”.
Likewise, a Gojek spokesperson said they will take swift action against offenders, including suspension and reporting them to authorities.
Both companies are currently hiring in various positions related to fraud and risk prevention.
Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post