August 21, 2020 - CAPE MAY COUNTY HERALD

NORTH WILDWOOD – Seymour Josephson stepped to the microphone, at the Aug. 18 North Wildwood City Council meeting, to talk about his organization, the #whatsmyname Foundation, born after his 21-year-old daughter, Samantha, mistakenly got into a car she believed to be manned by an Uber driver.

The vehicle’s locks were disabled, and the University of South Carolina senior was trapped by a man who would brutally take her life.

Josephson, of Robbinsville Township (Mercer County), admitted that recalling the events still choked him up, but he had a story to tell that might keep another parent from suffering what he and his family endured.

Samantha, or Sami, as she is known by family and friends, was abducted March 29, 2019, just months before graduating, and was looking forward to Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, where she was offered a scholarship.

She left a bar in the Five Points area of Columbia, South Carolina, at 2 a.m., and got into a black Chevy Impala allegedly driven by 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland, mistaking the vehicle and driver for her Uber.

Samantha was being tracked by her boyfriend on his cellphone, who soon realized something wasn’t right. She was reported missing the next afternoon, and her body was found soon after. Rowland was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder.

Samantha’s blood was found in the back seat and trunk of the car, as she suffered multiple stab wounds.

Josephson, his wife, Marci, and daughter, Sydney, wasted little time creating a foundation aimed at sparing other parents from having to go through what they were experiencing.

Ridesharing safety laws were passed, in South Carolina and New Jersey, and a national bill passed Congress, revised to be even stronger by the Senate, and is being sent back to the House for a vote there, then the Senate and soon thereafter to the president’s desk for his signature.

Samantha Josephson, 21, mistakenly got into a car she believed to be manned by an Uber driver. The senior at the University of South Carolina was kidnapped and found murdered the following day.

The law would require all rideshare vehicles to have lighted signs in the windshield and a QR (quick response) code that passengers can scan from outside the vehicle that confirms the ride and other safety measures.

Uber and Lyft, national rideshare companies, joined the cause and are helping the Josephson’s get their message out.

Last year, Uber introduced Verify Your Ride, which provides riders with a four-digit pin that they can verbally provide to their driver, who will have to enter it into their app to start the trip. Lyft will soon introduce similar technology.

Josephson showed one of the signs the foundation provides, with the acronym S.A.M.I., which stands for:

"Stop: Plan ahead. Before you request a ride, think about where you're headed and review the safety features in the app so you know how to use them.

"Ask: Ask your driver “what’s my name” to confirm they have booked a trip with you through the ridesharing app.

"Match: Match the make, model, and license plate of the car with the one displayed in the app.

"Inform: Share the details of your trip with a friend. Utilize the "share" status function in the Uber app."

Josephson said North Wildwood police were interested in the program and requested signs and business-sized cards they can distribute to people in “rideshare zones.”

Josephson described those zones as places where there are bars, restaurants, or other places where people congregate.

“Uber reported 6,000 incidents this year,” Josephson told the council. “Samantha was not the first person this happened to, but we hope she is the last.”

The key to awareness is to get the information in front of people on a repetitive basis, he said.

“We need to get these signs in strategic locations,” he explained.

North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said he is in favor of the signage and efforts to keep ridesharing a safe mode of transportation in town.

“We have a bar zone here where this would be helpful. My 16-year-old just recently took his first ride in a rideshare car with his friends, so I am interested in the safety of these vehicles,” Rosenello said.

Josephson responded, “The law in New Jersey says passengers in a rideshare vehicle have to be 18, but some drivers don’t always abide by that.”

“Well, now you have me rethinking that,” Rosenello said.

After the meeting, Josephson said the idea of making rideshare safer is gaining global recognition.

“In addition to calls and emails from all over the U.S., we have had emails from Israel, Europe, London, and others all looking for information on how they can do this, too,” Josephson said.

A call from Salt Lake City, Utah, made all the heartache and hard work the Josephson family has gone through in the last year worth it.

“The woman said a man attempted to pick her up, pretending to be her rideshare driver. She applied the S.A.M.I. steps and realized he was a fake and didn’t get in. That’s why we do what we do.”

For additional information, please visit www.whatsmyname.org.

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(ROBBINSVILLE, New Jersey) July 30, 2020 - ASBURY PARK PRESS

Among the provisions:

  • Ride-sharing companies would need to roll out technology that would match passengers with their drivers' vehicles. A driver couldn't begin the trip until the passenger and driver verify each others' identities.

  • It sets up a 15-member advisory council that reports to the Secretary of Transportation with safety guidance.

  • It makes it illegal to sell ride-share signage.

  • It requires the government to study the prevalence of assault and abuse of passengers and drivers.

  • It requires the government to examine ride-sharing companies background checks.

Josephson left behind hundreds of friends and family members, who gathered in her Mercer County hometown last year to remember a woman who at once was "kooky and laughable" and had earned a scholarship to attend law school at Drexel University.

On an early March morning, weeks before she was supposed to graduate, she called an Uber and got into a dark-colored Chevrolet Impala outside a bar in the Five Points District, a nightlife hot spot near the University of South Carolina.

Turkey hunters eventually discovered her body in a rural area near a dirt road. Police later determined she had been stabbed to death.

Josephson's parents, Seymour and Marci, began working with Smith, their congressman, and Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., a Democrat co-sponsor, to try to better protect ride-sharing passengers, particularly women.

Uber in a safety report it released in December said it received nearly 6,000 allegations of serious sexual assault nationwide over the course of 2017 and 2018.

"For over a year — especially given the pain due to the unimaginable loss of their daughter — Seymour and Marci have been heroic, tenacious and extraordinarily persuasive," Smith said. "They have been a critically important part of the often-intense negotiations with multiple stakeholders including Uber and Lyft."

Both Uber and Lyft officials said they supported the legislation.

"The tragic death of Samantha Josephson left the rideshare community heartbroken and devastated," Danielle Burr, head of Uber federal affairs, said in a statement. "Today’s passage of ‘Sami’s Law’ is another step in the ongoing work to help improve safety on ride-share by leveraging education and technology."

The Greenville (S.C.) News contributed to this story.

For additional information, please visit www.whatsmyname.org.

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Updated: Jul 29, 2020

(ROBBINSVILLE, New Jersey) July 27, 2020 - In the coming months, restrictions due to COVID-19 will continue to ease and many college students will return to school. When that happens, #WhatsMyName Foundation and Lyft stand ready to work with colleges and universities to increase awareness about rideshare safety on campus.

We’re joining forces with Lyft to promote rideshare safety best practices and empower college students across the country with the information they need to ride responsibly. The #WhatsMyNameFoundation was established in honor of Samantha Josephson, Seymour and Marci’s daughter who was kidnapped and murdered during her senior year at the University of South Carolina by a man posing as an Uber driver. The Foundation’s goal is to educate college students about rideshare safety best practices so that no other family will have to suffer this kind of tragedy.

"No family should ever have to experience the heartbreak we endured when we learned what happened to our daughter that fateful night," said Seymour Josephson, founder of the #WhatsMyName Foundation. "It is uplifting to know that the #WhatsMyName Foundation and Lyft share the goal of keeping young people safe, and through this initiative we will leverage our joint expertise to promote best practices for using rideshare both on and off campus.”

“We’re proud to partner with Seymour and Marci Josephson, the #WhatsMyName Foundation and our entire community of partners to amplify ridesharing safety education on college campuses nationwide,” said Lyft’s Director of Public Policy for Community Safety Jennifer Brandenburger. “We’ve already adopted several measures to make sure riders are getting in their correct vehicles with verified drivers to prevent incidents like this from happening, including sending push notifications to remind riders to verify their ride and increasing the visibility of the vehicle’s make, model and license plate in the Lyft app. While the tragedy involving Sami Josephson didn’t happen on the Lyft platform, we’re committed to enhancing safety across the entire rideshare industry.”

“This announcement comes on the heels of Lyft’s partnership with It’s On Us, an organization founded by White House officials during the Obama administration as a sexual assault prevention initiative aimed at college campuses, to amplify safety education around ridesharing. Tracey Vitchers, Executive Director at It’s On Us, and Silvia Zenteno, Director of Education and Training at It’s on Us, also serve on Lyft’s Safety Advisory Council.

“Ridesharing has become an integral part of life for young adults, especially on college campuses. It is common for students to request a ride after a night out, for themselves or for a friend, to safely and easily get home,” said Tracey Vitchers, Executive Director at It’s On Us. “As the nation's leading organization focused on college sexual assault prevention, It's On Us is proud to partner with Lyft on such important initiatives for our shared community.”

The best and most effective way for riders to ensure they’re getting in the right car is to match the license plate shown in the Lyft app with the license plate of the arriving vehicle -- before stepping foot into the car. Lyft is committed to ensuring riders have the information they need to get into the correct vehicle, which is why we send push notifications to remind riders to verify their ride’s license plate, and feature photos of the Lyft driver, license plate number, and the make, model and color of the car in the Lyft app. Last year, Lyftwe increased the size and visibility of drivers’ license plate numbers in the app, and continues to push for legislation requiring front and back license plates on the state and national level.

For additional information, please visit www.whatsmyname.org.

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Slain college student's family fights to improve rideshare safety

#WHATSMYNAME Foundation partners with Uber and Lyft to teach collegestudents about rideshare safety

#WhatsMyName: Uber Partners With Foundation In Honor Of Samantha Josephson

Remember Her Name

Composed, Edited, and Produced by Louis A. Josephson

Plan ahead. Before you request a ride, think about where you're headed and review the safety features in the app so you know how to use them. 

Ask your driver "what's my name" to confirm they have booked a trip with you through the ride sharing app. 

Match the make, model and license plate of the car with the one displayed in the app. 

Share the details of your trip with a friend.  Utilize the "share status" function in your ride sharing app.   


To learn how to get involved with our ride share safety initiatives and for our latest updates, please provide your email address below!

The #WHATSMYNAME Foundation  is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 

All donations are tax deductible in full or in part.