April 15, 2024

Travelers arriving at the world’s busiest airport are currently dealing with a creepy and potentially dangerous security problem. Atlanta’s 11Alive reports that the city’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has been swarmed by fake rideshare drivers who have been attempting to lure passengers into their cars.

The problem has been known for some time, but 11Alive wanted to experience it firsthand. So the station sent one of its investigative reports out to the airport with a hidden camera. What she captured was disturbing.

11Alive Investigator Savannah Levins saw the issue firsthand, capturing the interactions with a hidden camera. Within moments of walking out of baggage claim, four drivers approached her. “You can pay however you want” and “just give me your address” were just some ways they tried to secure the gig.

Men, watching and waiting from various spots around the airport’s baggage claim, approach passengers disembarking, then try to get them to hire them for a ride is very weird and disturbing. To most people who are familiar with ridesharing in any way shape or form, you know the process for hiring a driver doesn’t work like this. Normally, you hail a ride from an app that features identifying details about the driver — such as the car’s make and model, a license plate number, and name. These apps also feature easy emergency contact options.

Atlanta’s Police Department told 11Alive that it’s aware of these fake rideshare drivers. While the cops believe money is the main motive for what these people are doing, authorities say they’re not ruling out worse things, like human trafficking. “We’re concerned about everything. It’s not just one thing,” Atlanta PD’s Airport Precinct Commander Major Collier told 11Alive.

What’s worse is that even though police say they’ve held sting operations that have resulted in arrests and citations for these fake rideshare drivers, some of them are repeat offenders with long rap sheets who go right back to the airport to try their luck again.

Mengistu Zarzar is one of them, according to Atlanta Police. Records show he’s facing multiple charges this year alone for trying to entice travelers into his car illegally. He even took off with one couple’s luggage when airport security tried to intervene, according to reports and APD body camera video.

A prior Clayton County arrest warrant listed him as an escape risk with violent tendencies, identifying him as armed and dangerous. Atlanta Police confirmed the department had an active warrant out for his arrest for yet another solicitation attempt at Atlanta’s airport in March 2024.

A woman whom 11Alive interviewed about being approached by these fake drivers identified Zarzar as a man who tried to get her to pay him and give him her address. Atlanta police say they have someone monitoring the rideshare area of the airport 24 hours a day. Airport officials said in a statement they’re working to keep passengers safe and that they should only accept rides from drivers hailed through apps and not ones from solicitors on foot.

A version of this article originally appeared on Jalopnik.

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