Another Nigerian Sting: This time Uber customers are the victims

It seems that Nigeria has spawned a new scam, this time to support driving income. Drivers in Lagos have been reported using a fake GPS app "Lockito" to bump up ride prices and charge the customer more than double the fare amount.

Lockito is a GPS testing app originally used to evaluate geofencing based applications, but the Lagos drivers found that it could be used to confuse the Uber app, acting as a parasite, the app sets a false GPS map route that sits under the Uber GPS map, and the Uber app then calculates both rides like one, since it cannot differentiate between the two GPS coordinates it is receiving.

When the driver starts a trip, they turn on Lockito, the app plots and calculates a fake GPS route before the passenger enters the car. The passenger is then taken according to the Uber map app, but the system tallies up the fares from both apps as one whole unit, and this is what is charged to the passenger's account.

Uber's offices in Nigeria are aware of the use of Lockito by its drivers and Francesca Uriri, Ubers spokeswoman in Nigeria said that Uber is "constantly on the lookout for fraud by drivers and riders who are gaming our systems."

Drovers that spoke with Quartz, an online news site, stated that they started to use Locki (short for Lockito) as a reaction to Uber's base fare slash of 40% which was protested but never received any attention.

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One driver that requested to remain anonymous (naturally) first heard about Lockito well before the price slash but never used it. Then Uber suddenly dropped our income levels to such that it was not economically viable to drive, but since we had no other work, we continued to drive but had to find a way to increase our income. Our protests didn't work, so I used Lockito for the first time, and I now use it about five times a week for specific trips, not for every trip. The driver uses the app to meet the weekly payments he has to make on his car since most Lagos drivers don't own the car they drive, they partner with car owners and pay a weekly fee. Ever since Uber cut the income, it has been hard to meet the weekly payment and be left with anything in hand.

Nigeria recently came out of recession in September, and the economic status is still hard. The country is struggling to recover its financial foundations ever since the crude oil prices dropped. The world poverty clock published a report stating that by February 2018 Nigeria will become the poorest country to live in on earth, taking away this spot from India. Nigeria will have the largest per capita population living in extreme poverty, and most Nigerians will be unemployed, have no access to standard amenities.

Two Uber drivers in Nigeria have taken up the crusade against Uber's price slashes and are starting a class action against Uber stating that Uber drivers should be considered employees and receive benefits from Uber. This goes in parallel to Uber's driver's status in London, where the London Transport Authority recently ruled that they should receive minimum wage. In fact, Uber has to contend with different legal and regulatory conditions in every country. So, their "independent contractor" policy might not meet a specific countries requirements.

A Nigerian driver that uses Lokcito stated that many drivers are starting to use the additional app and new drivers are seeking out the experienced ones to learn how to use it. Just to get a feeling of how much the fare is changed, most Lockito fares increase the income bit around 1,000 to 2,000 naira which is the equivalent of $3 to $6 per ride, although some drivers have been known to charge even larger amounts for unsuspecting travelers. For instance, a tourist that wants to travel from Lagos international airport to Lekki, a Lagos neighborhood would usually pay only up to 3,000 naira, or $8 per trip. Drivers using Lockito have charged $40 for such a trip.

The driver we spoke to stated that his highest Lockito trip was around 10,000 naira, which would normally cost the passenger a third. While the driver felt guilty about using the app, he continues to do so since he has to provide a stable source of income to survive. He claims that drivers will continue to use the app so long as Uber keeps prices down.

He stated that even if Uber blocks Lockito or finds a way to challenge the app through an in-app upgrade, they will only find another solution or app to reach the same price changes. The main driver’s challenge is to get the same income they go before the 40% slash. Other drivers concur with this statement and claim that if Uber wants the Lockito swindle to stop they will have to return to the old base fare pricing system.

One driver claimed that Uber knew of the app and even promoted its use by not doing anything since they want to retain their income profits in Nigeria, and if drivers and earn more in a roundabout way while Uber maintains income from passengers, then why rock the boat? This is attested by the Uber app stating that "fake location detected" in the app and then you still click OK and get paid. Nothing ever happens after this, and you continue to use the app.

Uber's spokeswoman, Uriri denied this accusation and stated that "Uber has automated rules in place that warns and permanently deactivates any account or accounts associated with fraudulent activity," She goes on to state that. "Uber encourages both riders and driver-partners to rate their journey at the end of the trip. Honest feedback helps ensure that everyone is accountable for their behavior."

Uber stated that it has the policy to refund all passengers claiming t be subject to a Lockito pricing. Taxify, Uber's main rival in Lagos has updated their app that now blocks Lockito. So, all Taxify drivers no longer use Lockito, how they supplement their income is not yet known.

Uber is under attack in Lagos as more and more app companies vie for the market, such as Alpha One and MotionPlus. Although Uber remains strong due to their aggressive pricing policy, it remains to see what will happens with their drivers and Lockito. The drivers only want to earn a stable income, and want Uber to remain strong in Nigeria, but only if they will pay their drivers properly.