A woman has issued a harrowing reminder about the risks of ride-sharing after her friend was lured into a car by a fake Uber driver over the weekend.
Georgia Hazeldene, 26, was looking to make her way home with a friend in the early hours of Saturday morning after enjoying some drinks at a Wollongong bar when her night took an “unsettling” turn.
'Do you want a lift?'
Just as the two women were about to order an Uber, a man in a silver car pulled up beside them and leaned out the window.
“He said, 'I’m your driver, do you want a lift?',” Georgia told Yahoo News.
“Thinking about it now, the whole sentence did not make sense.”
They swiftly brushed him off as a “sleazy man” and kept walking before making a formal booking through the ride-share app.
“We didn’t even take a second to think about how this night could have gone,” Georgia admitted.
Man takes girl back to his own house
But a few hours later, the terrifying reality of what could have happened was laid bare when she received a message from a distraught friend.
Georgia told Yahoo News two other women had mistakenly gotten into the car with seemingly the same man who had approached earlier that night.
“He rocked up, told them he was their Uber driver, they were drunk and got in,” she explained.
It all seemed normal at first with the man dropping off one of the women at the given address.
But once Georgia’s friend was alone in the car with the man, she quickly realised something was off.
“She was saying he was taking a long way to her house, detouring around where she lived,” Georgia said.
The woman suddenly noticed he didn’t have a GPS or anything to suggest he worked for Uber in his car.
He allegedly pulled up outside his own house and asked if she wanted to “go inside and f***” and “do some fun things”.
“That’s when she realised she was in trouble… She was like okay, this is wrong, I feel like I’m in danger.”
Georgia said her friend pleaded to be taken home, and gave him all the money in her wallet.
He agreed, taking her somewhere close to where she lives and she immediately bolted out of the car.
“She feels uneasy because he knows where she lives, she couldn’t even sleep.
“It’s been really tough, I still feel so sick, it’s really unsettling.”
Georgia said it didn’t click that it was the same man she had come across until her friend began describing how he looked.
“My face just dropped,” she said.
Both women recall the man as having dark skin and hair with a bit of stubble, being of Indian or Asian appearance and driving a silver Toyota Corolla.
“I wish I had gotten a bit more detail,” Georgia added.
More women 'stalked' by driver
After sharing her experience on social media, Georgia was contacted by a number of other women who were also allegedly stalked by a man pretending to be an Uber driver.
“It’s disgusting after months of being locked inside, we can finally go out and see our friends, enjoying life being young and someone like this is out there,” she said.
While her friend and some of the other women are too shaken to speak out, Georgia hopes to be their advocate and voice.
“The main thing is I want young women to know they are not alone. We need to be there for each other.”
Police investigate fake Uber driver
NSW Police confirmed to Yahoo News that Wollongong officers are investigating a report of a fake Uber driver on Saturday morning.
“It has been alleged that the man approached a woman about 2.40am on Saturday in the vicinity of a licensed premises claiming that the phone app was off-line,” the statement read.
“It is further alleged that the man has then performed an indecent act upon the female who entered the vehicle.”
Police are urging members of the public to ensure they check the details of the vehicle which has been booked against the phone app.
Riders urged to report dodgy drivers
In a statement to Yahoo News, Uber said riders are encouraged to make a report if the driver doesn't match the photo or number plate displayed on the phone app so action can be taken.
“At Uber, we continue to build cutting-edge technology and features to help improve safety and users can access these in the Safety Toolkit in the app. These advances in safety are important — but for them to be effective, riders need to be in the right car. We provide driver photos and number plates in the app so riders can confirm it’s the right person picking them up before getting in," the statement read.
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