I’m a huge fan of Uber and Lyft. For the most part, my experiences have been positive, and I generally don’t have many safety concerns about my personal information being compromised while using either app. However, I did uncover a flaw after a recent Uber ride, and I’d like to bring it to light.
In an effort to protect both the driver and the rider’s personal phone numbers, Uber generates a “dummy” number for riders and drivers to communicate before, during, and after the ride.
While blocking the true caller ID of both passengers and drivers results confidentially and certain level of safety, the process is not entirely foolproof.
On my recent trip to Cartagena, my friend and I took an Uber from the airport to the Hyatt Regency Cartagena. During our ride, we spoke with each other, but didn’t engage in conversation with the driver other than saying hello and thank you at the beginning and end of the ride, respectively.
About 10 minutes after my ride concluded, I noticed I had a WhatsApp message (which is tied to my real phone number) from my Uber driver, soliciting me to use his transportation service for an excursion.
I immediately started to think about how it was possible. At first I thought that maybe it was a flaw within WhatsApp. Did he copy the burner number and paste it into a WhatsApp message, which then automatically re-routed the message to my real number?
After he responded to my inquiry, I saw that he dialed my number. Though my phone never rang, I have a generic voicemail box set up which spells out my phone number.
He probably called, got sent straight to voicemail, and then took the liberty to message me. It’s a bit creepy knowing that he took the extra step to reach me that way, but I politely let it go and he never messaged me again.
Unwanted solicitations aside, I was more proactively concerned from a safety standpoint moving forward. As someone who uses Uber frequently, it rubs me the wrong way knowing that a driver could access a phone number and uncover a ton of personal details about a person quite easily.
Even if your voicemail wasn’t generic, it could include identifying information about yourself like your full name, occupation, or place of employment. Chances are, your Uber driver probably already knows where you live or work based on where your ride starts or ends.
Though not all Uber drivers have a ulterior motives, there have been a number of unfortunate and terrible stories. These are just things to consider. Just because Uber uses a randomized number, the call still directs to your real number (including voicemail).
Because of this, I will change my voicemail settings to remove my phone number when someone dials.
Have you ever had a similar issue or privacy breach while using Uber or another ride share program?