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Ticket Stop top-up scam

The news over the last couple of days has been full of stories about a fraudster who scammed thousands out of users when processing top-ups in his newsagent shop.  As is usual in cases like this, the journalists have tried to explain what happened, but so far they have spectacularly failed to get it right.  This may be down to TfL not wanting the exact procedure to be made public in case other shops try it as well; or it could be that not enough care has been taken understanding the issues.  It does leave confidence in the system seriously compromised, which is a problem for honest shopkeepers who may now see a drop in activity.

Firstly, I’m not suggesting that I know exactly what has happened, but I’m fairly confident that one popular scenario has NOT happened.  There is no way that the transactions have been voided after the card (and user) has left the shop.  Remember, top-up is a two stage process where first the card is read, then the amount of top-up is written back to the card.  If the transaction is voided after the card is removed from the reader then the only organisation losing money is TfL.  I find it inconceivable that TfL would not notice such problems over a prolonged period.

Secondly, what can be done to restore confidence in the ticket stop system?  The single most important thing we can do is to check our receipts after the top-up has taken place, asking for one if it isn’t immediately forthcoming.  Let the shopkeeper know that we are checking what has happened.  Also, let’s make a concious effort to get our cards registered.  The fact that TfL could only trace a few victims suggests that the scam targets unregistered cards.  Whilst I fully understand that some people don’t like the big brother conspiracy, registration does make the card a lot safer to use, especially if it’s lost or stolen.  It also provides access to the online history which may help us spot any issues quickly.

Finally, TfL must overhaul the system used by ticket stops to manage Oyster cards.  And once done they should explain exactly what went on so that everyone can regain confidence in the system.

Links to the story in the press:

http://metro.co.uk/2013/11/05/oyster-card-top-up-scam-costing-users-thousands-4175034/

http://www.itv.com/news/london/update/2013-11-05/comuters-conned-in-a-6-000-oyster-card-fraud/

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/newsagent-stole-6000-from-oyster-card-customers-in-mean-and-greedy-fraud-8922233.html

9 Responses

  1. I’ve already seen a London lifestyle website urging caution when using a newsagent after this judgement.

    It’s important for TfL and the retailers of whom 99.9% are processing Oyster transactions daily that it’s safe to use the facilities as being a TfL merchant attracts customers who’ll then buy a newspaper or a packet of cigs which keeps them in business.

    However, I’m not a fan of the current Oyster Ticket Stop terminals with their flimsy portable pads, the old touchscreen terminals were much better, although they took up space as they also printed paper tickets which retailers no longer sell.

  2. This is interesting- I personally don’t use corner shops as they tend to be overpriced and seemly higher risk of being scammed than in other shops!

  3. Mia Fleecedcustomer

    I have noticed that I have been fleeced by a shop in Rose Hill,Surrey recently..it isn`t hard to work out where and when the supposed top-up wasn`t put on…I have informed the police about this and they are investigating…this type of crime is just pure greed on behalf of the shop owners and is a known crime and failure of TFL to produce a system that isn`t open to abuse.

  4. I recently topped-up £10 at a corner shop in West London, the honest looking shop keeper even gave me a receipt for £10.

    But the next day, it ran out on route from south london, so I went to the ticket office and got a print out, turns out the shop keeper had only put on £9 not £10.

    I came home rang the helpline and it was then that we realised the receipt was for someone else’s card and for a transaction that happened 2 hours earlier that day.

    This proved the teller knew exactly what he was doing, he had also torn of the top of the receipt which would of had the shops details on, thinking I wouldn’t be able to trace his shop, however Oyster could trace it through both my card number and the card number on the receipts.

    The operator told me that alot of times people won’t notice £1 go missing, and even when they see the print out for £9, they just assume they were in debit of £1 on the card hence why it looks like the card is in credit of £9 not £10.

    What annoyed me the most was what he did could be potentially dangerous, I am a woman and was left stranded, luckily it was day time and I was able to be able to top up, but what if I hadn’t and it was late at night or worse still what if I had topped up my daughter’s card at this scum bags shop?

    I think TFL should vet out their agents a lot more and do random checks, it is well known in London to avoid corner shops, and if you have to, never to use credit cards, calculate the costs before you get to the till, check the dates, always ask for a receipt etc etc.

    TFL invite customers to use these shops to top up their oyster cards who will then rip customers off even more what kind of impression is that giving our visitors and tourists.

  5. Hi Miss Cross,

    Thanks for taking the time to publicise this method of short-changing us. It gives us a chance to spot the problem if we look carefully. The majority of TfL’s ticket stops are honest shopkeepers and in many areas the service they provide is invaluable where there are no nearby stations or where the facilities are only open a short while. I would hope that following your report the shopkeeper in question has lost (or is about to lose) his permit to act as a ticket stop. I know that this has happened in other cases in the past.

  6. On Saturday I visited the ticket stop in station parade Brentford to put a £20 top up on my card. My card was only topped up by £14.
    As a visitor to London I didn’t know this kind of fraud was an issue- but I’ll be aware next time.

  7. Hi Gill,

    I hope you have reported the matter to TfL (the Oyster helpdesk) so that they can take action. Thanks for letting us know.

  8. It’s a real tragedy that tube ticket offices are going and more people will be left with no choice but to use a ticket stop- when trying to top up an exact amount such as £6.40.

  9. Your point would be better made if it were true, but you can top up odd amounts at National Rail TVMs as well.

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