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Serial thieves are posing as customers to steal cars, Atlanta Police warn rideshare drivers

Thieves carjacked eight Uber and Lyft drivers since mid-July in the same part of Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Beware rideshare drivers. Atlanta police have a warning about your safety.

Some serial car thieves are posing as customers and stealing the drivers’ cars. The thieves have struck eight times so far since mid-July, mostly in the same part of Atlanta.

One of the victims is 24-year-old Joseph Tenenbaum. Tenenbaum’s car is his living. He is an Uber driver.

He says he knows he is lucky because he was not hurt, and got his car back after thieves stole it from him while he was on a call.

“It was so quick, it was so calculated,” Tenenbaum said.

Tenenbaum is one of eight ride share drivers since mid-July who police say have had their cars stolen, generally in the Mechanicsville neighborhood just southwest of downtown Atlanta.

Tenenbaum said that on July 21 he was near the address that a customer named “Elizabeth” had given him. It was dark, and he struck an empty scooter in the middle of the street.

“So I step out of my vehicle to make sure that I haven’t hit someone or that I need to call 911, and then I hear three people just running up. I heard footsteps, and I hear, 'go, go, go, go, go',” he said.

In those quick seconds he watched all three jump into his car, throw it in drive, and zoom off, he said. 

He said they appeared very young. He’s not sure how they were able to order the car without giving away their credit card and IDs, and police were not explaining that part of the scheme. But Tenenbaum has no doubt they set the trap to lure him out of his car.

Atlanta Police Captain Pete Malecki said Monday that the thieves, posing as customers, often pretend that they are having trouble opening the trunk when the car arrives, and when the driver gets out to help, they jump into the car and steal it.

“If someone attempts to lure you out of the vehicle,” Malecki said, “You should treat this as a red flag.”

Drive away, he said, and call 911.

“If you do have to step out of the vehicle for any reason,” he said, “Turn the vehicle off, take your keys, and lock the door.”

“There just isn’t any reason to be getting out of your car,” Tenenbaum said he now realizes.

Tenenbaum said the thieves tried to access his bank account through his phone, but he was able to borrow a phone right away and shut everything down.

He had to buy a new phone, pay rent, and, he said, he has to make a living.

“I’m going to keep driving,” he said.

Atlanta Police have not released a description of the thieves yet.

Detectives are asking tipsters to call 911 or Crime Stoppers Atlanta for a possible reward: 404-577-TIPS, 404-577-8477.