An unsettling video went viral on Reddit late Monday night. It shows a young woman in an Uber who empties out the driver’s tip jar and then flees the scene with two friends. I have a few questions about what’s going on here.
Update 2:52pm - The thief has apparently confessed on social media. Scroll down for details.
Question 1: What the hell?!
This is more of a reaction than a question. But honestly, what kind of degenerate steals money out of a tip jar, much less one belonging to an Uber driver who’s probably at one point been denied tips through the app? What a sick way to have fun.
Question 2: Where and when did this go down?
The Uber driver in the video told The Daily Mail that the incident happened in New York City back in August. The video itself has a timestamp of about 1:30 on August 12th, a Saturday. So presumably, these three are on their way to get brunch, maybe in Williamsburg—or Bushwick, or whatever—before the woman decided to rob their Uber driver.
Question 3: Why is the thief staring straight at the camera?
Redditors also have some theories about this. The one I like best suggests that the dash cam was actually mounted on the rearview mirror. Whether she realized the camera was there or not, the cash-grabber was probably looking at the rearview mirror to see if the driver was watching them. As the video makes clear, however, his attention was turned to the sideview mirror on the driver’s side, probably making sure a truck didn’t take out his rear door as the passengers were exiting the vehicle.
Question 4: What did the driver do when he realized he’d been robbed?
The driver told The Daily Mail that “he was too busy working to file a police report after the video was filmed.” Fair enough. He did, however, contact Uber.
Question 5: What did Uber say?
The drivers says that he emailed Uber who offered him this canned response:
We understand your frustration with this experience. We’ve attempted to contact the rider by phone and email, but haven’t been able to resolve this issue. The rider responded to us and advised us that she didn’t steal your cash from the tip jar. If you believe the rider has your cash as captured from your dash cam and is refusing to return it, you may want to initiate a formal investigation via the police.
Uber also offered this statement to The Daily Mail:
What’s been shown has no place on our app and the rider’s access to the app has been removed.
We still don’t know the identity of the thief. It’s also unclear if the passenger who stole the tip money is the same passenger who booked the ride. There’s a significant chance she is not.
Question 6: Can’t the banned passenger simply create a new Uber account and keep robbing drivers?
Yes and no. Creating multiple Uber accounts is much harder than, say, creating multiple Gmail accounts. When you first set up your account, Uber actually fingerprints your device by storing a combination of different data points on its servers. These data points include the Unique Device Identifier (UDID), the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI), the Media Access Control (MAC) address, and others depending on the device you use. Update 5:02 PM: Apple deprecated UDID access in 2013.
One security researcher said last year that Uber “crosschecks more than 16 IDs” to verify accounts. So even if the passenger bought a new phone, she still might not be able to use Uber ever again. She might be able to set up an Uber burner account.
Question 7: Wait, what the heck is an Uber burner account?
Apparently, some people have had success creating multiple accounts so that they don’t have to worry about passenger ratings or getting tracked. It’s quite possible that Uber’s cracked down on this in recent years.
Question 8: Is getting banned from Uber appropriate justice for stealing cash from a driver?
Firm no. As previously mentioned, it’s unclear how much cash was in that jar, but it doesn’t look like a ton of money. That leads me to believe that this young woman does shit like this for the thrill of it. Who knows if she jumped out of the car only to hit up the tip jar at the local coffee shop and then sauntered over to bar where she cherry-picked dollar bills left behind for the bartender. This is the behavior of a kleptomaniac.
Question 9: What would police do?
It’s unclear if the NYPD would even bother helping to recover a few bucks for this poor driver. That’s what makes Uber’s “go file a police report” email response especially insulting. Then again, can you imagine Uber putting resources into investigating a misdemeanor on its watch? This is clearly a crime for the internet to solve.
Update: This is the thief
It looks like the tip jar burglar is an 18-year-old from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She identifies herself as Gabita and confessed to stealing the money on social media. Gabita could be seen in an Instagram posted the same day as the incident. She’s also wearing the same outfit as she was in the Uber.
The kicker? She’s doesn’t seem sorry at all. In response to an Instagram commenter, Gabita posted an extremely unapologetic message on Snapchat, claiming to have only stolen a few bucks that were later returned and plus it was so long ago what’s the big deal. Here’s Gabita:
actually this was before i left my house but his little $5 was returned when it happened 3 months ago lol. but never was the type for jail
Update 3:47 pm: The Instagram post has been deleted.
The driver has not responded to Gabita’s claim that the money was returned, though you’d think he would have brought that up when interviewed by The Daily Mail.
Stay tuned for updates. This show’s getting good.