Boston police are investigating two separate sexual assaults that might have involved assailants masquerading as ride-sharing drivers early Sunday, officials said.
Authorities said it was not clear whether the drivers sought in the attacks were associated with the actual ride-sharing companies that the victims had thought they were using.
“Preliminary info indicates the victims may have inadvertently entered vehicles not affiliated with legitimate ride-share services in Boston,” police said.
Both victims were women who called in reports around 3 a.m. and said their drivers made them sit up front, then assaulted them during the ride, police said.
Police do not believe the incidents were connected.
Police did not say what ride-share companies the women were attempting to use, though Lyft said a driver had gone to one of the scenes to pick up a passenger who never arrived.
“A Lyft driver was dispatched to pick up a passenger on Lansdowne Street,” Alexandra LaManna, a spokeswoman for Lyft, said in a statement. “When the driver arrived at the designated spot he called the passenger, however the passenger never got into his car and wound up canceling the ride.”
According to police, the victim in that case said she called for a car on Lansdowne Street, then got into a vehicle she thought had come for her. “The driver stated that he was not her driver but he would drive her anywhere she needed to go,” police said.
He then asked her to sit up front, where he indecently assaulted her, police said.
The victim in the Lansdowne Street case said her assailant was black, in his late twenties to early 30s with a thin build. He was clean-cut, with short hair, and was wearing a black sweater and khaki pants, police said. The man spoke with an accent, police said.
In the second incident, a victim said she arranged a ride from Center Plaza in Downtown Boston. Police said she got into a small black SUV thinking it was the car she had called.
The operator told her to sit up front, authorities said, and he sexually assaulted her during the ride. She was dropped off in Mission Hill, police said.
Authorities said anyone with information should call the police Sexual Assault Unit at 617-343-4400.
Uber wrote in a statement it is “actively working with Boston Police to aid in their investigation of these incidents.”
Vlad Christoff, cofounder of the service Fasten, said Monday the company had no “reports from riders, drivers, or the BPD of any incidents involving our riders over the weekend.”
LaManna, from Lyft, said the company has measures in place “to help passengers correctly identify their driver before getting into a car.”
“When passengers request a ride using the Lyft app, they get a text confirmation that includes the driver’s name as well as the make, model, and color of their car,” she said. “Passengers also immediately see a picture of their driver’s face, their car and their license plate number, and can track their driver’s arrival via GPS.”
Boston police urged riders to use such tools.
“Riders should never get into a ride-share car they didn’t order. Nor should they get into a ride-share car if any of the information they received in the confirmation text does not match up,” police said.
Authorities also said riders should be wary of drivers who urge them to sit in the front passenger seat.
“If you’re traveling solo and a driver insists that you sit up front, trust your instincts and do not enter the vehicle,” police said.
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