Much like taking out your parents’ Porsche for a joyride, you can’t get away with doing something you’re not supposed to be doing forever. Like gaming the Uber car service’s referral system by signing up strangers so you can rack up $50,000 in ride credits.
It was fun while it lasted for one New Yorker who pulled a temporary fast one on Uber, earning “free Uber for life, essentially,” he tells Business Insider. He clearly has never met my best friend, who could use up that $50,000 in a few months.
The thing is, Uber’s credit policy requires users to actually know the people they’re signing up by handing out a personal credit code: “public distribution on sites where you are a contributor but not the primary content owner (e.g., Wikipedia, coupon websites) is not allowed.”
And that’s exactly what the guy did — changing the credit code from a random string of letters to one advertising free Uber rides (users who sign up using the code get a credit as well), and posting it to a sub-Reddit for coupon codes. He also sent out a mass email to 700 people from his contact lists to scoop up referrals.
All told, he ended up with about 2,500 referrals, riding around on Uber for eight weeks. Then he made the mistake of rating a driver with one star, bringing his account to the attention of the company, he says. Which then ended his joyride.
“Our system has flagged your account indicating you’ve taken advantage of the Uber referral program to earn Uber credit inappropriately,” the email he received from Uber read. “You will no longer earn credit from invite codes associated with these accounts, and we’ve removed the credit earned previously from the primary account associated with this invite code.”
He did get a credit of $500 after the Business Insider story, which is $500 more than I’ve ever received in recognition that I cheated a company’s system.