British Transport Police reports that five former Southeastern staff have been handed prison sentences for taking part in fraud at Greenwich and Woolwich Arsenal station ticket offices. They were involved in misusing ticketing machines used to credit oyster cards, defrauding the railway and its customers of more than £185,000 since 2011.
They were caught following an investigation by British Transport Police in cooperation with Southeastern and Transport for London.
This is not the first crime of this nature: back in September 6 employees of South West Trains were jailed for scamming Oyster customers.
As modern payment methods such as smartcards and travel by contactless bank card are increasingly rolled out, the scope for train companies and their passengers to be defrauded seems set to increase, e.g. bank card skimming, theft of personal data or credit from smartcards.
To protect yourself from fraud you may wish to consider the following:
- Top up Oyster & other smartcards at ticket machines rather than ticket offices where possible. This cuts out the risk of a scam by a rail employee – but be alert for any sign of tampering to the machine and always cover with your other hand when entering the pin.
- If you top up at a ticket office, check the correct amount was added to your card at a ticket machine at the next opportunity.
- When dealing with someone who appears to be a member of rail staff on the platform or the train, always make sure you see ID & check the amount topped up / taken afterwards.
- Trust your instincts: Be alert to anything that does not seem right, e.g. if you have proof (permit to travel) you boarded at a station without a ticket machine but someone still tries to charge you a penalty fare then you know something is wrong. This is forbidden by the penalty fare rules, so someone doing so may be committing fraud.
- If in doubt or you suspect a fraud, call British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40.