Calling Mr Newman

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.

21 comments on “Calling Mr Newman

  1. The thing that surprises me most about this story is that people actually take taxis in Lagos. I mean, I saw them but didn’t know anyone who would take one, and as for trusting the meter of a Nigerian taxi…

    Perhaps Nigerians thought Uber was foolproof? Alas, they severely underestimated the uses to which their countrymen apply whatever intelligence they have.

  2. I don’t see how this would work.

    At present, if your Uber driver overcharges you by taking the scenic route, you can complain to the company and get your money back. This has happened a few times in London with inebriated passengers falling asleep and being taken the long way home.

    So what advantage does spoofing the GPS location confer? If the spoofed route is longer than the one taken, then the passenger simply complains to get their money back; even if the driver actually took the direct route.

    I suppose most passengers won’t think to check their journey history – but they will once they get wise to this trick.

  3. One thing that surprises people, including me, about Nigeria is the degree to which scams exist. Pretty much every transaction you can think of is subject to a scam, often several at once from both sides. That only scratches the surface: there are scams at work you or I couldn’t have dreamed up in a million years, usually several layers deep, i.e. the scammed numbers are subject to scammed rates which brings in revenue that is then stolen via another scam.

  4. I recall a TV program where the film makers rented a helicopter in Lagos and took a vehicle tracker receiver with them – as soon as it got some altitude over Lagos the software seized up as it couldn’t track that many (presumed stolen) vehicles….

    No doubt about the fact that you have to pay attention to everything in Nigeria 😉

  5. Tim Newman – “Alas, they severely underestimated the uses to which their countrymen apply whatever intelligence they have.”

    This is such an unfair article. It is a tiny minority of extremists who call themselves so-called “Nigerians” who do this. The vast majority of Nigerians are peace-loving law-abiding people just like you and me.

    Actually this is one of the paradoxes of Nigeria. Just when you think the entire country is made up of low-grade mentally sub-normal hereditary criminals[1], they do something that looks quite clever. Averages, I suppose, are complex thing. But the paradox is that surely anyone this smart could make a better living by being honest? I mean this is not rocket science but it is pretty clever. Why not earn an honest living?

    [1] Go on, name an African politician who does not sound like he is mentally retarded.

  6. But the paradox is that surely anyone this smart could make a better living by being honest? Why not earn an honest living?

    Presumably because all the people making an honest living are being ripped off by the others. It is possible that a society could be so corrupt that honesty is a serious disadvantage.

  7. @SMFS

    It’s not just Africa. Here in the UK, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve encountered staff running minor scams. Nothing seriously illegal, just minor ‘theft’ of company property or man-hours in an effort to ‘put one over on the man’. I usually suggested to them that if they only put half as much effort into doing their actual job, they could earn significantly more money.

  8. SMFS,

    “But the paradox is that surely anyone this smart could make a better living by being honest? Why not earn an honest living?“

    But it isn’t that clever. It’s like people who sell cracked games. The original cracker is smart, but the people flogging them are not skilled. The guy who figured out to use the app first is smart, but everyone who told each other isn’t.

  9. I recall a TV program where the film makers rented a helicopter in Lagos and took a vehicle tracker receiver with them – as soon as it got some altitude over Lagos the software seized up

    He was lucky it wasn’t the engine.

  10. Presumably because all the people making an honest living are being ripped off by the others. It is possible that a society could be so corrupt that honesty is a serious disadvantage.

    Yup. I knew and worked with plenty of honest, decent guys who were also pretty smart. Trouble is, they were outnumbered a thousand-to-one by absolute cretins. An awful lot of the smart ones simply leave.

  11. I’ve met quite a few Nigerians in Dongguan, every last one of them was a scammer or a drug dealer and appeared to be significantly wealthier than me. One the plus side I’ve never been thrown in a Chinese jail or given the death penalty.*

    *touch wood.

  12. Dongguan, we’ll keep an ear out for Boris dropping you in it even deeper than you already are!

  13. This reminds me of a movie “We’re Talking About Serious Money” in which these two low level mob associates are going from one get rich scheme to the next. One of the guy’s longtime girlfriend finally tried to give them some sense “If you boys have real jobs, you won’t have to work so hard”.

    It would look like these Nigerians are just brought up in environment that encourages scamming.

  14. “It is possible that a society could be so corrupt that honesty is a serious disadvantage.”

    Honesty is always a severe disadvantage when dealing with other humans, as long as the dishonest competitor isn’t caught being dishonest.

  15. Some years ago some thieves spent a weekend tunnelling to a cash point. I can’t remeber exactly how much they got but I remember a tim pointing out that they spent the weekend working for less than the minimum wage an honest job wouldn’t have got them a jail term either.

  16. Tim Newman

    I guess that the tracker helo was from an expat operation. Nigerian domestic aviation is – as you know – pretty hit+miss.

    The rascality in Nigeria is full spectrum and yes, Nigerians are the primary victims – one can see the attraction of voting with one’s feet if your skills are transferable.

  17. Actually, honesty is the secret of success in business. Fake it and you’ve got it made.
    (That’s according to Marx. Groucho, not Karl).

  18. Tim N, although on my last trip Uber had gone downhill and another app, Taxify, was more reliable, on previous work trips Uber was a godsend. For the first time I could travel reliably around VI and to the airport in a safe way. Employees at our business partners could attend meetings and get back easily, none of us had to hire a useless hotel driver for the day at an exorbitant rate. I even went out in the evenings a few times. The difference was incredible.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.