Uber is expanding its frontiers by adding public transportation to their already successful car ride-sharing service. Buzz60’s Maria Mercedes Galuppo has more.
Tampa, Florida, police say a viral Facebook post about an Uber ride and a possible sex trafficking attempt is a simple misunderstanding.
A woman arriving at Tampa International Airport posted on Facebook on Tuesday that she had gotten into the wrong car at the airport and eventually was concerned her driver was involved in sex trafficking.
During the ride, the passenger, whose name is listed as Emmy Hurley on Facebook, noticed that she did not recognize where she was going and brought it to the attention of the driver, police say. There was some confusion between the passenger and the driver, who police said spoke Spanish as her primary language.
Then, the passenger got a call from the Uber driver who was supposed to pick her up and was still at airport. The second driver suggested she get out if she was concerned, which she did while the car was still moving, according to the Facebook post, which has been shared more than 351,000 times.
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The woman also said on Facebook that she found out that the initial driver “is a sex traffic worker.”
But Tampa police say that is not the case.
“There is no evidence to support the woman’s statement posted on social media that she later ‘found out she is a sex traffic worker’,” the Tampa Police Department said in a statement to USA TODAY.
During the incident, either the passenger or the second driver brought up that they had heard sex traffickers use Uber to lure people in, police say.
“The driver of the car in question is a legitimate Uber driver who was at the airport to pick up someone else,” police said in the statement. “The language barrier, and the fact that the woman got into the wrong car, led to confusion. Unfortunately, that also led to inaccurate conclusions that were then posted on social media.”
This isn’t the first time Uber has been hit with erroneous reports of drivers being involved in sex trafficking. Last month, the Cambridge (Massachusetts) Police Department publicly denied such an investigation after text messages involving ride-share services were circulating after police made an arrest in a kidnapping case.
Uber, which has trained its drivers in cities to identify potential human trafficking situations, said in a statement to USA TODAY: “We encourage riders to use the driver, car and license plate information they receive in the app to verify they are getting into the right vehicle. We’ve been in touch with the driver, rider and local law enforcement to clarify the misinformation that has been circulating.”
The woman who posted about the incident on Facebook also didn’t return a request for comment.
Police did note that the woman at the center of the incident did end her Facebook post ‘with an appropriate word of caution: ‘Always, always check your Uber.’ “
Other tips from the Tampa Police Department:
• Make sure you get into the right car. Check the ride-sharing app for the license plate number and the model of car.
• Check the name of the driver and make sure the driver looks like their photo in the app.
• Before you enter the car, ask the driver who he or she is there to pick up. Since the app provides the driver with your name, they should be able to answer.
• Always sit in the back seat, so you can make a quick exit if you need to.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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