The Justice Department has charged over a dozen people with fraud involving driver and delivery apps. Prosecutors say the alleged scam ring created fake accounts with stolen personal information and then sold those accounts to otherwise unqualified drivers – while also collecting referral bonuses and developing software to trick the apps.
The indictment was unveiled Friday, complimenting wire fraud allegations first uncovered in May. She accuses 14 people – all Brazilian citizens and most of them live in Massachusetts – of identity theft against five unnamed companies. (The prosecution charged a total of 19 wire fraud charges, and 16 were arrested.) The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the aggravated identity theft charge carries a minimum of 2 years in prison.
They allegedly used alcohol orders as an excuse to scan users’ driver’s licenses
Court documents describe an intricate fraud system involving bots, GPS spoofing, social security numbers bought on dark websites, and driver’s licenses copied by ignorant app users. Although the apps in question are not named, the details of the complaint match issues identified with Instacart and Amazon Flex, among others.
From around January 2019 to April 2021, members of the group reportedly (incorrectly) told customers that they would have to scan their driver’s license in order to deliver alcohol. Prosecutors say the defendants modified the photos on the driver’s licenses, paired them with other personal information, and opened accounts that they could sell or rent to drivers. The fake accounts also allegedly helped the group collect referral bonuses that could reach $ 1,000 each – a message shows that a delivery company paid $ 194,800 after receiving referrals on 487 fake accounts.
The conspiracy reportedly expanded when the group bought software they could rent to drivers and helped them automatically receive orders via bots or fake locations to make the trips appear longer. According to an affidavit, the group allegedly promoted their fake accounts to Brazilian nationals who work in Massachusetts. There is no detailed description of who purchased the accounts, but many ridesharing and delivery drivers are undocumented immigrants who may have difficulty completing application requirements.
Software tools have helped people bypass opaque and exploitative features like DoorDash to hide tips from employees. But these tools have no identity theft side (usually) – and bots and hackers are a well-known nuisance to employees and customers alike.