LAS VEGAS — Complaints about fake rideshare drivers victimizing customers are on the rise in big cities across the country.
When a man posing as an Uber driver allegedly abducted a local woman from the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, she made a brave escape from a moving car.
Elizabeth Suarez' traumatic experience began on a mid-July night at Park MGM. She booked an Uber to take her home after a night out with a childhood friend.
“So I get the notification from my phone saying that the Uber is arriving soon so head out to the valet," Elizabeth said.
She saw a car matching the description on the app.
"And he gestures over to me, I open the car door and I say hi, are you here for Liz? and he says, 'yeah, get in.'”
She didn't realize he wasn't her ride until they were on the road and she got a call from the real Uber driver who was looking for her outside Park MGM.
“My heart sank. Because I knew I was in the wrong car. I have no idea who this guy is, I'm in trouble.”
Frightened and not wanting to spook the man behind the wheel, she tells the real Uber driver all is well and hangs up. Then tries to get her driver to let her out.
“I'm just thinking airport, just a lit area, even a gas station. I don't care. I just said, 'sir, anywhere is fine, you can just drop me off here.' He ignores me and keeps driving.”
She posted this on her Snapchat story, hoping to silently alert friends she was in trouble
“And I thought well if he's gonna kidnap me, what... You know... Rape? Kill me? Anything! All these thoughts are going in my head. And I froze.”
Afraid of what the driver might do if he heard her on her phone, she did not call the police.
“I’m just trying to stay calm, make my next move.”
We obtained video which shows him pulling into the shopping center on Eastern and Warm Springs.
“I take a side profile picture of him, my flash goes off, startles him and that's when he starts cursing: 'give me your wallet! Give me your phone! Give me everything you have!'”
She threw her wallet at him but kept her phone. Instead of letting her out, he sped up.
“That's when I open the car door and it's unlocked and I just jump out without thinking."
She suffered a head injury, a fractured wrist and a badly broken ankle as a result of jumping out of the car.
Our crime and safety expert says Elizabeth's brave act of desperation may have saved her life, but there are two things she should have done differently because every clue counts. He says she definitely should have called 9-1-1. Even if they were just listening to a one-sided conversation, they'd likely have been able to figure out there was a crime in progress.
He says she also should have raised a red flag when the real Uber driver called so he could've potentially alerted police. But Elizabeth says police weren't helpful at first, asking questions about her instead of the driver.
“Why was I out so late? Why was I alone? I had to hire my attorney because I was afraid they were going to drop my case.”
Attorney Neal Hyman sent a written request for further investigation.
“They changed some detectives on the case and are starting to take it more seriously. But in any type of law enforcement investigation, timing is crucial. They also note multiple errors in the police narrative,” Hyman said.
“He never said, 'I am not your Uber, get out, leave your purse,” Elizabeth added.
Her biggest concern is that robbery is the only crime listed in the report. There's no mention anywhere of kidnapping.
“Once he did rob me he continued to drive away with me. I only got out because I jumped out!”
The crime remains unsolved while Elizabeth endures a lengthy recovery.
“I say that he broke some bones but he didn't break my spirit. I'm here and I'm here to tell my story and I'm doing it to warn other girls,” Elizabeth said.
Park MGM declined to give KTNV television station in Las Vegas its surveillance video of Elizabeth being picked up. They said no one made a security report for a crime on their property, referring the reporter who called to metro, which has not yet responded to calls about the case.
Uber urges all riders to follow their safety guidelines. They say before you get in any car, make sure the vehicle and license plate number matches the information in the app.
Verify the driver's name and picture. And always ask the driver "who are you here for?"
Elizabeth's friends have set up a go fund me page to help with her medical bills.