#AirportMafia Airports

The Airport Mafia Explained

Lately there has been a grassroots campaign among Houston Rideshare drivers to not only root out the airport mafia, but to stop them in their tracks, via way of airport bans from TNC companies such as Uber, Lyft or the airports themselves. Because of this, may drivers are left to wonder what or who is the Airport Mafia?

In simplest of terms, the Airport Mafia is anyone who tries to game or cheat the system. While every driver wants to find ways to increase their earnings, there are troves of drivers that use any means necessary. Members of the Airport Mafia have been known to use everything from cell phone jammers, GPS spoofing apps, and even lock boxes at the airport.

How does this affect me?

Cellphone jammers are devices (illegal to own or sell) block signals to other cell phones that maybe in the area. While the military is known to have jammers that can block out whole neighborhoods (and possibly more) there are plenty of devices that are either home made or found via a simple google search.

Okay, but if they block out my phone, wouldn’t that block out their signal as well?

Majority of ones you find are limited in strength (generally less than 50 feet) and only block out certain cell phone bands/frequencies. What this means, is not every courier/phone is going to be able to be blocked at once. Furthermore, because the signal strength is somewhat weak, they are forced to either walk or drive around the lots hoping they are catching someone that is next in line. This method slowly, but surely reduces their wait time and increases you wait time.

GPS Spoofers/Location Disabling

This applies more to android phones, but affects iPhone users as well. There are apps (found in the play store) that allow you to mask your location. Let’s say you are at home. Want to get in line as you drive to the airport? Sure, download one of these apps and you can put yourself at the airport. Fortunately, Uber and Lyft have been detecting these lately, (so not smart to try) but there are always new apps that pop up that they have to manually find a way to block. These apps maybe found in the Google play store. There are methods to jailbreak your phone, that allow you to essentially put black market apps on the phone. (those not approved by Apple or Google). This makes it harder for the rideshare companies to detect.

On Android, you can disable your location, essentially your phone won’t move. So let’s say you are at the airport. You can wait in the Lyft queue, get a ping, and turn your secondary phone on and login to Uber, turn your location services off, and guess what? You are now free to move around, pick up your Lyft rider, take them to their destination and come back. Your Uber phone should of held you in the queue, and now you are that much closer to being next in line.

read more about GPS spoofers and disabling locations here

Lock Boxes/Phone Holders/Stash Vehicles

Finally, let’s talk about lock boxes and phone holders.

Phone holders are simply drivers that found a way to make money. There is typically one person that holds phones for his or hers “friends” It’s old school, and hard to detect and observe. The only way to find these drivers are by observing how many phones one has. It is not abnormal to have 3 phones. One for Uber, One for Lyft and one for personal use. What is abnormal is when you see a driver by themselves and you see 5 or more phones laid out in the back of his or her trunk. That is a red flag.

Lock boxes are more simple yet can be the hardest way to detect. Lockboxes have been tied on light poles, hidden behind bushes, tied into trees and who knows where else. Similar to a phone holder, the lock box holds the phone(s) inside while the perpetrator does rides on another rideshare app. When they get back to the lot, the driver has moved up in queue. Very simple and primitive but as you can see from the below picture, sometimes they hide these in plain sight. Some drivers share these, others have their own. The reason for them being inside a lock box is to keep the phones safe from prying drivers.

While the Airport Mafia is not officially a crime syndicate, they have been known to intimidate other drivers. They often “reserve” parking spaces. Meaning, if you park there, they will ask that you leave because they are holding it for a friend. Because of the already tight parking, often drivers get mad, talk back and a argument ensues. A physical confrontation sometimes ensues and police are often called out to handle it. This should never happen over a parking space, but it does. Finally, if you see something, say something. There is no reason to allow the airport mafia to continue. Every time they take a ride via cheating, you are waiting that much longer for another ride. There is no reason for you to spend any more time in your car then you have to.

Here are some numbers you can call:

Airport Ops (IAH) – 281-230-3100 (Option 5) – Airport Operations should be called whenever you find a lock box, a phone holder/vehicle. They should also be called when parking is filled up. If there is an emergency and people are doubled parked, it is hard to get any emergency vehicles in there. This is a big safety concern of the airports.

HPD (Houston Police Department) can be reached via their NON emergency line at 713-884-3131 . They can help with parking issues, arguments/fights and such, but not so much with phones being left behind. However, for EMERGENCIES CALL 911 of course!

Both rideshares have expressed an interest in helping. You can reach out to them via social media, like Facebook, Twitter, or head down to their respective driver hubs. Remember, most drivers are signed up for more than one rideshare, so it wouldn’t hurt to report to both. For this though, they do want pictures/videos of license plates.

Also, please like and follow @RideshareHouston on Facebook. You can message this page privately and submit any pictures or videos you may have. These will be carefully looked at and anonymized to make sure nothing in that video/picture reveals who you maybe. We have already posted a few pictures and video of the airport mafia, and have received threats, which is why we will keep your information private no matter what. The more eyes we have looking the better. Word will eventually get around that they will be caught. Hopefully just being on Facebook will be enough of a deter.

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