Could Handing Your Train Ticket to a “Ticket Inspector” Land You With a Criminal Record?

Anyone who travels by train on a regular or occasional basis will have at some point been approached by a ticket inspector checking that they have a valid ticket for their journey.

It is not uncommon for the inspector to ask you to hand over the ticket, so that it can be clipped or marked with a pen.

But suppose the “inspector” was a fraudster who took your ticket and refused to return it?

Consequences of Having Your Ticket Stolen

Here are the implications of not getting your ticket back:

  1. You Would Have to Buy Another Ticket: On a later ticket inspection or where you try to exit the train network, you will be challenged to produce a valid ticket.  As you no longer have one, you will have to pay for your journey again.
  2. Penalty Fare: Not having a valid ticket would make you liable for a Penalty Fare, which is twice the cost of your ticket.  So, in total you would end up paying 4 times the original ticket price, once the original ticket, again for the replacement and then double the ticket price for the Penalty Fare.
  3. Criminal Record: If the ticket inspector does not believe your story that the ticket was stolen from you then you may be prosecuted for fare evasion, which is a criminal offence under the 1889 Regulations of Railways Act.

Protecting Yourself

Here are some ways of protecting yourself:

  • Check the Ticket Inspector is Genuine: All rail staff are required by law to produce identification on request.   This is covered in section 24.3 of the Railway Byelaws and section 25 of TfL’s Railway Byelaws (in London).  An ID will have their employer’s name, a photograph from which they can easily be recognised and either their first + last names or a unique employee ID number.  If a ticket inspector refuses to show you ID, call the police.
  • Pay By Credit/Debit Card if Possible: Paying by card means that you can prove you did buy a ticket of the correct value for the journey on the date in question.  This evidence could help support your version of events if the case proceeds to court.
  • Get a Receipt For Your Ticket: A receipt is also evidence that you did buy a ticket, if you no longer have the original.  Ticket machines at stations normally have an Add Receipt option.  You can ask for a receipt if buying from a member of staff.  Receipts can also be used to claim compensation for a delayed journey under the Delay Repay scheme.
  • Record Evidence: Most people now carry a phone that is capable or recording video and taking photos.  You may wish to take a photo of the ticket at the start of the journey or record evidence if you are suspicious of the way an “inspector” is behaving.

Is this Crime Likely?

This crime is pretty unlikely, as when the fraudster keeps the ticket most passengers are likely to loudly object, drawing attention to the situation.  But why take the risk?  Always check for ID before handing over your ticket.

It is far more likely that fraudsters will pose as ticket inspectors to defraud passengers by:

  • Stealing Details Off Contactless Bank Cards: You can now use contactless cards to travel within London.  Hand-held contactless readers can easily be adapted to read bank card details that can then be used to steal thousands of pounds.
  • Stealing Data Off Smartphones: E-ticketing on mobile apps is starting to be introduced.  Fraudsters posing as staff could take the opportunity to gain access to valuable personal data on mobiles: Social media login details, data useful for identity theft, etc.
  • Stealing Credit Off Oyster Cards: This is less likely to be of benefit to a fraudster and would be more annoying to the passengers affected but that shouldn’t stop you playing safe by checking for ID if approached.