Have you ever ridden on Germany’s public transport system without a ticket? Unlike many other public transport systems (especially the metros) you don’t even have to swipe, insert, validate or show a ticket to enter the train in many cities (as far as I know, every city I’ve visited you just enter). Instead, DB ticket controllers are in charge of making sure you’ve got a ticket.
And depending on which city you’re in, it may be tempting. When living in Hamburg, for example, I rarely had my ticket checked by either a uniformed or undercover ticket controller. Maybe once a month tops. But then when I visited Berlin I was checked 5 times in a matter of 4 days.
Okay, we’re joking here. Buying a ticket for public transport helps to pay for the system, keeps it running smoothly and well maintained and clean for all of us. And that’s great. Public transport is great, especially when we consider it’s benefits on our environment.
But taking the public transport in Germany if you’re not familiar with the system can be a challenge. And it seems that some employees hired by Deutsche Bahn are taking advantage of that.
Foreigners as easy targets
Even as a foreigner myself, it’s definitely not a challenge to spot other foreigners on the train. Locals in every country have their own look, not to mention language. And while yes, it’s possible for us tourists to blend some of the time – as soon as we open our mouths the jig is up.
On top of that, sometimes figuring out the exact ticket to purchase for your journey isn’t always easy. Believe me, I know from experience. And then you have to validate the ticket (which also isn’t always obvious). The first time I came to Germany, I’d never heard of validating a ticket.
Federal Police now investigating DB ticket controllers
To check for those who are riding on the rail network without a valid ticket, Deutsche Bahn hires a private security company to act as DB ticket controllers and check passengers as they ride the train. When caught riding without a ticket (known as schwarzfahren in Germany) those passengers are typically asked to cough up the punitive fee to be paid. At the moment, €60. You should then receive a receipt.
But now the Federal Police are investigating several ticket controllers who have allegedly taken that money for themselves. The police say that these ticket controllers would repeatedly demand money from passengers and then pocket the money without providing a receipt.
What’s worse, they would allegedly specially look for foreign passengers who were less likely to understand the local regulations. When they saw the tickets weren’t valid, the controller would demand €60 in cash.
This also ignores one of the core rules of employees to show fairness towards passengers.
According to Berlin Federal Police President Thomas Stiethörster, “The way the employees of the private security firm ripped people off is an absolutely socially damaging and ugly act.”
What can you do if you’ve been a victim of this type of scam?
Firstly, the police advise that although the majority of ticket controllers work in a lawful manner, if you are asked to pay a fine and don’t receive a receipt, to call the police immediately.