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Police, Ohio State warn students after “fake” Uber driver tried to lure woman into his car

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WYSX/WTTE) — Students living near The Ohio State University campus said on Monday that they will be more aware of their surroundings, after a report that a “fake” Uber driver tried to lure a young woman into his car.

The report, made public in a University “Neighborhood Safety Alert” on Sunday, said that a man in a medium-sized white car drove up to the woman and told her to get in his car, near the corner of E. 15th Avenue and Indianola Avenue. The location is about a block away from campus.

The only identification offered was a handwritten Uber sign in the window of the vehicle. According to the alert, the young woman refused to get into the car and kept walking. The man drove away.

Columbus Police later took the report from the woman, who indicated that the man waved his arms at her and said, “Hurry, get in!”

The incident bears resemblance to a March 2019 incident in South Carolina, when college student Samantha Josephson was stabbed to death after getting into a vehicle she thought was a ride-share.

“If I didn’t order an Uber and someone just pulled up to me and said get in the car, I would not get in that car,” said OSU sophomore Caitlin McKiernan on Monday. She also said she makes an effort not to speak with strangers and walks with groups of friends at night on North High Street.

An Uber spokesperson on Monday said the company has been working vigorously in the past year to enhance rider safety by encouraging a “Check Your Ride” process before getting into a car. The Uber app provides riders with a photo of the driver and a license plate number for their car.

The spokesperson said Uber does not instruct any driver to mark their car with a sign, and no Uber drivers should ever pull up to a curb offering a random ride to a pedestrian.

“In the middle of the day if I’m walking home from class, I won’t really have my friend track me on my way home,” said sophomore Mia Spallino, who said she’ll feel differently about that after the fake Uber incident.

“Hearing about actual incidents that are happening makes me want to be a little more careful and aware,” said her friend, Mia Galluch.

Student Life officials in the Off-Campus Student Services department on Monday urged commuters and those living near campus to be vigilant and utilize apps live Rave Guardian, which allows friends to virtually track one’s walk home via GPS.

“We really encourage students to look out for their neighbors, look out for themselves, and always walk with a friend off-campus,” said off-campus coordinator Rachel Demooy.

The suspect in the Sunday incident was described by the victim as a black male, in his 30’s, with long braids and driving a medium-sized white vehicle. Anyone with information, or who sees a similar tactic in use around Columbus, should call police at 614-645-4545.

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