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An Uber car waits for a client on June 14, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
An Uber car waits for a client on June 14, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Deceived

Student’s death after getting into car she thought was her Uber raises ride-share safety questions

By WITW Staff on April 5, 2019

The killing of Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old student at the University of South Carolina, has drawn attention to the growing numbers of women who have been attacked or sexually assaulted by men posing as ride-share drivers.

Josephson was last seen getting into a car she thought was an Uber at 2 a.m. on a crowded street on Friday night in Columbia, South Carolina. She was found stabbed to death in the woods 70 miles away.

Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, has been charged with kidnapping and killing Josephson after police reportedly found her blood and cell phone in his car along with bleach and cleaning supplies. Uber has reported that Rowland was not a driver with the company. The ride-sharing service issued a message to users on Thursday recommending that they check cars license plates and review driver photographs before getting into a car.

According to police, men target women by driving around nearby popular drinking areas and posing as Uber drivers when people emerge from the bars. Josephson’s family have called on Uber to pursue measures to ensure that people can easily and safely identify ride-sharing vehicles.

Carla Westlund, 30, told the New York Times that Josephson’s death brought back memories of 2017, when she suffered a sexual assault at the hands of a man she mistakenly thought was her Uber driver. She fell asleep in the back of the car, she said, and awoke to her driver smashing her head against the seat.

“He had an Uber sticker,” she said. “He was pretending to be an Uber driver.”

Earlier this year, Nicolas Morales was charged with raping Westlund and six other women by pretending to be a driver with the ride-sharing service. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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