Some Uber drivers in Lagos have been using a fake GPS itinerary app to illicitly bump up fares for local riders.
Initially created for developers to “test geofencing-based apps,” Lockito, an Android app that lets your phone follow a fake GPS itinerary, is being used by Uber drivers in Lagos to inflate the cost of their trips.
Quartz reports that in some cases, inflated trips can cost riders more than double the rate they should be paying. “It’s more like a parasite,” says Mohammed, a driver for both Uber and Taxify in Lagos. “It sets the false GPS movement while allowing the phone also to keep track of its actual movement. The Uber app can’t tell the difference between both so it just calculates both.”
When a driver uses Lockito for an Uber trip he or she can have the fake GPS running (and calculating a fake fare) from the pickup point to the drop off location, before the passenger has even got into the car. When the real trip starts, the real GPS starts running and calculating the actual fare. But at the end of the journey the fares from both trips (real and fake) are tallied up as one fare which the unsuspecting rider pays.
Uber Nigeria is aware of the abuse of Lockito by certain drivers. Spokeswoman Francesca Uriri, said it is in violation of Uber’s guidelines and the company is “constantly on the lookout for fraud by drivers and riders who are gaming our systems.”
The drivers Quartz spoke with said Lockito or “Locki”, is simply a reaction to Uber’s 40% slash of its base fare implemented in May. Many drivers were unhappy about the price drop and there were a series of protests which had little impact.
Williams*, an Uber driver who asked his real name not to be used, says he heard about Lockito a while ago but initially had no interest in using it. “Uber was sweet, until they slashed the price,” he says. “They did not bring back their price up, so the work started getting tough and tougher.”
“When the thing was just getting tougher, I had no choice but to go on Lockito.”
He claims he uses the app four to five times a week, but has specific targets and does not use it on just anyone.
Williams says the main reason he uses the app is to ensure he can meet his weekly payments to his Uber partner [the owner of the car], a situation he says many other drivers are in. Most ridesharing drivers in Nigeria do not own their cars, instead they partner with car owners and pay them a weekly fee, which according to Williams has become harder to meet as a result of the base fare slash.