Cormac Murphy of the Herald writes:
Fraudsters have been using forged bus and Luas tickets to evade public transport fares, it emerged today.
Dublin Bus launched a full-scale probe when the scam was uncovered, leading to the arrest of a number of suspects.
A man has already been fined €300 in court for using a fake pass, while other cases are pending.
The con centred on the ‘Combi’ 30-day pass worth €98 which was advertised for sale at a price of €50 on the Gumtree website earlier this year.
The pass is valid on all Dublin Bus vehicles and Luas trams.
The forgeries look almost exactly like the real ones, though they are not recognised by validating machines on buses.
The fraud was exposed when an employee of the bus company was going through ‘standard fares’ — or fines — issued to passengers.
Mark Kelly, an area manager with the semi-state’s revenue protection unit, came across a fine issued to a woman for not having her Dublin Bus identification card with her.
He told the Herald he thought it odd that she would pay €98 for a Combi ticket and then not even carry her free ID.
Mr Kelly kept the ticket with him and within 24 hours had it checked out. It proved to be a forgery.
Dublin Bus officers then discovered an ad on Gumtree for a 30-day bus and Luas pass at a cut-price €50.
A full-scale investigation was launched, Mr Kelly said.
One of the first things the company did was to apply online for a ticket.
Within a short period, the fake was delivered to an address provided. This allowed Dublin Bus to call in the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.
Bus inspectors were also told to be on the look out.
When forgeries were discovered, the vehicles were immediately stopped and the local garda station was informed.
“We have found over 30 people on our buses that were in possession of a false ticket.
“They are being processed through the courts,” said Mr Kelly, who praised the co-operation provided by gardai.
On one day alone, four buses were stopped at the same time at different locations around the city.
It is understood only one suspect was Irish, while the majority hailed from Eastern European countries.
One difference between the real pass and the fakes is the former has a matt surface on two specific spots, while the forgeries are glossy all over.
The crackdown, which started in April, proved successful as no more forgeries were discovered on buses after July.
As well as over the internet, the tickets were also offered for sale at the Spire on Dublin’s O’Connell Street and other locations.
It is not the first time public transport has been targeted by fraudsters.
In 2006, a lucrative fake travel pass scam on the country’s bus and rail networks was exposed.
It involved the falsification of travel passes issued by the Department of Social and Family Affairs to people with special needs.
The bosses of website Gumtree could not be contacted for a comment.