BTP Confirms: Check Ticket Inspectors have Photo ID and Call Us If They Refuse to Show It to You

The Head of Crime Reduction at British Transport Police (BTP) has confirmed that:

  • BTP encourages passengers to check for photo ID when approached on public transport for a ticket inspection.
  • If the ticket inspector refuses to show ID or tries to pass of “uniform” as ID, then you should call BTP for assistance.

BTP relies heavily on the public to help fight fraud by being vigilant and spotting the signs such as lack of photo ID out on display: if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

This advice came in response to an enquiry raising concerns about the risk of fraud that could be carried out by someone posing as a ticket inspector, e.g. skimming card details from those using contactless cards – although even handing a paper ticket to a fake ticket inspector could have serious consequences.

The email exchanges (with personal data redacted) are available below.

The second response advises those using ApplePay to secure your mobile phone with a password, and for those using contactless to utilise anti-fraud wallets/holders to block the RFID signal.

Original Enquiry

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am hoping you can assist me by providing some fraud prevention advice.  I did look on the BTP website but cannot find any relevant advice there.

My main concern is about the potential for fraud during the ticket check where (supposed) staff often approach passengers with only a name badge – and sometimes a jacket/jumper with TOC logo – to identify them.  In the past when I have asked to see ID, I have experienced extreme reluctance and sometimes point blank refusal to show ID.

This makes me feel unsafe to board a train, as without ID there is no way of distinguishing between a real staff member and a fraudster.  This makes me feel – depending on method of payment I have chosen – that I have to hand my ticket, contactless, ApplePay or payment for ticket (if no purchase facilities at station) to a potential fraudster.

The recent introduction of travel by contactless card creates a lucrative opportunity for fraudsters to skim card details from those using that payment method, and this leads me to believe that I (and fellow passengers) are therefore at increased risk of encountering a fraudster on a ticket check.  Here are the main risks I perceive:

  • A card reader is used to skim details off cards presented for inspection by those using contactless.  As you will be aware Rip-Off Britain & Which? have already demonstrated this is possible and, although the CVV number cannot be read by this method, sites like Amazon allow cards to be used without CVV … and in an online transaction the £30 contactless limit of course does not apply.
  • Reading personal/login data from ApplePay devices.
  • Stealing a ticket.  Whilst this is not a very likely crime, it would defraud the passenger of the cost of the journey, meaning they may have to buy a second ticket and possibly pay a penalty fare.  If their story is not believe, the passenger could potentially end up with a criminal record for fare evasion.
  • Persuading a vulnerable person to leave the train at a quiet station – e.g. on the pretext that the ticket was not valid – in order to commit a sexual assault.
  • Being sold fake tickets, issued a fake penalty fare, card details used for payment being retained by fraudster.

I am therefore approaching BTP to ask you to provide clear fraud prevention advice.  In particular I would like answers to the following questions:

  • Should passengers check for ID when approached by a ticket inspector?
  • What format of ID should the passenger expect?
    • Should there be a photo from which the ticket inspector can clearly recognised?
    • Should there be a means of making the ticket inspector accountable?
    • Does a jacket/jumper with a TOC logo + a name badge (first name only, NO photo) constitute ID?   If so, how can passengers distinguish between a genuine ticket inspector and, for example, a fraudster with a stolen TOC jacket + name badge – or one they bought off Ebay from a former staff member?
  • If the rules are different for conductors & RPOs, how can passengers tell which one of those staff members has approached them?
  • Under any of the following circumstances, should a passenger treat the “ticket inspector” as genuine and give them access to ticket / contactless / ApplePay / payment for ticket?  Or should the passenger treat as not genuine?
    • Ticket inspector refuses to show ID.
    • Ticket inspector produces ID but deliberately covers part of it and refuses to show it in its entirety, e.g. he or she may be hiding their surname / ID number in order to remain unaccountable, or a fraudster may be hiding something that would give it away as a fake ID.  I have experienced this personally.
    • Ticket inspector tries to pass off an item of uniform + a name badge (first name only, NO photo) as ID.
  • If treating the “ticket inspector” as not genuine, should the passenger call BTP and ask them to attend the train?
  • Can you assure me that:
    • All front line BTP officers are given specific  training in section 24.3 of the Railway Byelaws as follows:Railway Byelaws 24.3
    • If attending a train when a passenger has asked to see ID and a ticket inspector has refused to show it, BTP officers:
      • Will insist that the ticket inspector complies with the law by showing ID to the passenger.
      • Will not “aid and abet” the ticket inspector in breaking the law by either asking the passenger to leave the train (effectively defrauding them of their journey) or by vouching for the ticket inspector in lieu insisting he or she produces identification.
  • What proactive steps does BTP take to warn passengers about checking for ID before making tickets / payment / contactless / ApplePay available to someone who has approached them for a “ticket check”?
    • Where on your website do you advise passengers to do this?
    • How many times in the past 3 months has your social media team reminded passengers on Twitter, Facebook, etc. to check for a photo ID when approached by someone claiming to be an official?
    • Do you have posters at stations & trains reminding passengers to check for ID?

[Personal Data Redacted]

First BTP Response

[Personal Data Redacted]

Thanks for your email, you have raised some interesting points.

If you genuinely have doubts about the identity of a member of staff on the railways then you are within your rights to ask them for ID.  They should be able to produce company ID with their name and a photo on.

When having to make a payment for a ticket the advice would be the same as anywhere else. Don’t give your card to anyone else, and definitely don’t let anyone walk out of sight with it. If you have concerns about apple pay, contactless technology or any other payment methods then pay for your tickets a different method (cash or chip & PIN).

Any further questions about the identify of staff should be directed to which ever train company you are travelling with. And questions about payment methods can be directed to either the retailer (in this case the train company again) or to your bank.

[Personal Data Redacted]

Further Enquiry

Thank you for the prompt response and confirming that staff should be able to produce ID … which they are in any case under a statutory obligation to do when exercising powers under the Railway Byelaws such as checking tickets.   Your advice about payment for tickets is sensible.

However, the remainder of your advice falls a long way short of fraud prevention advice I would expect police to provide, given that my question related to an increasingly likely type of fraud with potentially very serious consequences that may occur during the “ticket check” process if  passengers are targeted by a fraudster.

I would expect British Transport Police to advise:

  1. To check that the “ticket inspector” has a photo ID prior to handing over anything of value, i.e. ticket, payment for travel or access to contactless/ApplePay.
  2. If someone refuses to show ID (or tries to pass of “uniform” as ID), to call the police for assistance.

I am very disappointed that you have failed to provide clear advice in this area, as this is the simplest and safest way a passenger can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of fraud on the train.

I note with disappointment that you have no fraud prevention advice on your website, even though BTP has been aware of the potential for this kind of fraud since at least the start of 2014.  Your social media teams are also failing to remind passengers to check for photo ID.

In fact your wording “If you genuinely have doubts about the identity of a member of staff” and “you are within your rights to” seems to imply that you think passengers should NOT check for photo ID if they receive an unsolicited approach.  If that is what you intended to imply, then it is very irresponsible.  This undermines excellent work that in being carried out by Action Fraud, other police forces, Trading Standards and Citizens Advice to always verify you are dealing with a genuine official when approached (at the door, in the street, on the phone, etc.)

The suggestion to avoid certain payment types also comes across as distinctly odd.  There is nothing wrong with using contactless / ApplePay.  But the best advice to give is to check for a photo ID to make sure they are dealing with a genuine staff member before giving the third party access to their card/device.

It is not clear to my why British Transport Police is so unwilling to give out clear fraud prevention advice.  But your inaction in this area does suggest that you are not as focussed as you could be on preventing potential fraud.

Just because this type of crime has not happened yet does not mean you should assume it will not happen.  Are you waiting until a young woman has been taken off at a quieter station and raped by a “ticket inspector”, before you start proactively advising passengers to check for ID?  If proposed changes to staff roles go ahead on Southern, there could be a greater number of instances of trains without genuine staff on them that may make this crime more likely.

Contactless is relatively new and is, I believe, limited to London.  But it is bound to roll out to other areas soon.  It is only a matter of time before fraudsters spot a lucrative opportunity to pose as ticket inspectors and skim card details off all those using this payment method.  It is a crime nobody would realise had happened until long after the criminal had gone.  Why are you unwilling to proactively advise passengers to check for ID, in order to help prevent this?

I welcome any further comment you wish to provide.

It is likely that I will be raising concerns about this with my MP.

[Personal Data Redacted]

[Internal emails between BTP officers redacted]

Second BTP Response

[Personal Data Redacted]

Thank you for raising several important issues which we are determined to address.

In regard to checking ticket inspectors’ ID cards, I do agree that if someone refuses to show ID, or tries to pass off “uniform” as ID, you should call the police for assistance. BTP do not imply that members of the public should not check for photo IDs, in fact, we encourage such behaviour. Train Operating Companies (TOCs) follow their own internal policies on uniform and identification. Creating a new policy on displaying ID cards is something out of our reach but it has been referred to relevant bodies to consider.

The fraud technique you are referring to, as you rightly suggested, is best tackled by raising awareness among the public and tackling those responsible. In this particular case, we are heavily relying on the public to remain vigilant and ‘spot the signs’ such as lack of photo ID card on display. In other words, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

In terms of fraud prevention advice for the public, BTP has been working together with the railway industry and external agencies such as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Department for Transport (DfT), Action Fraud, Get Safe Online (GSO) or National Crime Agency (NCA) to raise awareness of a variety of fraud and cyber-related issues. Materials have been published on our media channels through monthly Get Safe Online Campaign and involvement in initiatives such as Safer Internet Day or Get Safe Online week. As BTP is a national force dealing with a wide range of offences, and as much as we would like to dedicate more time to fraud-related crime, resources must be allocated to those who need them the most as a matter of priority. In regard to providing online content on issues such as fraud, our website is currently undergoing a makeover and will be fully updated in due course.

From operational point of view, we are doing what we can with the limited resources we have to tackle such offences. We have a dedicated Cyber Crime Unit that investigates cyber-enabled fraud occurrences and takes this type of crime extremely seriously. All of our officers receive initial recruit training on fraud techniques and all BTP employees will receive additional online training on fraud and cyber crime in the coming months. Moreover, up to 80 dedicated officers with undergo a more in-depth fraud and cyber crime related training provided by Get Safe Online in January 2018.

I do apologise for the previous suggestion that if you have concerns about Apple Pay or contactless technology then you should pay for your tickets using a different method such as cash or chip and PIN; we would definitely encourage the use of Apple Pay and contactless with a note to remain extra careful by securing your mobile phone with a password and utilising anti-fraud wallets or holders for contactless cards to block RFID signal.

As mentioned before, we are doing what we can and are aware of this issue. We do agree that public awareness is key to reducing fraud and are working in partnership with external organisations to solve this matter.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

[Personal Data Redacted]

Head of Crime Reduction

Crime Reduction Unit