The parents of a South Carolina college student who was kidnapped and killed last month, allegedly by a man whose car she got into believing it was her Uber, are trying to raise awareness of the dangerous trend of people getting into strangers' cars thinking they're rideshares.
Seymour and Marci Josephson, the parents of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson, this week launched the site WhatsMyName.org, and they're hoping to get #WhatsMyName trending on social media in order to get more rideshare users not to make the mistake their daughter made, which they say cost her her life.
The New York Times earlier reported that at least two dozen women have reported similar attacks in recent years by men whom they mistook for Uber or Lyft drivers.
The idea is that all riders should ask the driver to give them the name of the passenger they're picking up before getting in the car and closing the door. Users should also be matching the make and model of the car as well as the license plate number as a car approaches, and as a further precaution, they should send their ride location to a friend when the ride begins.
Just a week after the murder of Samantha Josephson, on April 5, three women filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Uber, claiming that they were assaulted by fake Uber drivers, and that the company had failed to warn them that such assaults had been happening. As the Washington Post reports, "The complaint alleges Uber knew about fake drivers preying on women around Los Angeles as early as 2016 and that the Los Angeles Police Department or sheriff’s department had contacted the ride-hailing service about the problem." The complaint further alleges that Uber "intentionally withheld this information" and made no effort to disseminate warnings to local women.
It's unclear whether the timing of the Los Angeles suit was coincidental, or whether it came in response to the publicity surrounding Josephson's case.
Uber has not commented on the LA suit, but the company issued a statement saying, "We have been working with local law enforcement, including the LAPD, about how to avoid fake rideshare drivers for several years. We launched a national campaign to remind riders to make sure they get in the right car by checking the information, like the license plate and car make and model, shown in the app." The statement added, "These important reminders have been part of our safety tips, and our law enforcement team regularly discusses this issue with agencies across the country."
The South Carolina legislature has proposed a new law that would require rideshare drivers to display illuminated signs on the dashboards in order to operate as Uber or Lyft drivers, but Seymour Josephson says more can be done. As he said in an interview with Good Morning America, South Carolina is one of a handful of states that doesn't require front license plates — and he says at the very least rideshare drivers should have to have these.