An undercover investigation from the BBC has found that forged rail tickets are being sold online and successfully used at train stations, without authorities detecting the fakes.
The tickets are being sold on the ‘dark web’, available for less money than official ticket sellers, and RE being bought using Bitcoin, the virtual currency.
A representative from BBC South East was able to buy and use both a first-class ticket from Hastings to Manchester, and a monthly ticket between Gatwick and London. On the dark web, the ticket to Manchester was purchased for £111 rather than the £285 charged by rail companies, and the monthly ticket cost just £100, £208 cheaper than its authentic equivalent.
The tickets were used a dozen times by the BBC, but were rejected by the barriers every time, with the web seller saying the magnetic strips do not work. However, rail staff checking the tickets allowed passengers to go through the barriers.
“The train companies keep stuffing their pockets with public subsidies while treating the operation of rail services as an inconvenience”, said the fake ticket providers in a statement.
“No-one should be ashamed of getting one over companies like Southern Rail. We wish one day everyone will be able to use an affordable public service. Until then, we will be providing it.”
The forged tickets were very convincing according to rail fraud investigator Mike Keeber, but “there’s something on there that shouldn’t be on there,” refusing to disclose what the “something” was, to minimise the risk of the forgers finding this information.
It is estimated that fare dodging costs the railways around £200m a year. For anyone thinking of buying these fake tickets, if caught in possession of one you can expect a prison sentence or large fine, as it is a criminal offence.