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Today I received a message in my postbox regarding an unpaid fee for not showing a valid ticket on public transport.

The address and name are correct in the message. However:

  • I use what they call "die Umweltskarte" - a monthly ticket

  • I never been asked for any tickets by anyone. I never had an experience of showing my ticket to controllers.

  • There is a street name, the date and the time where the so-called "violation" happened. On that date, I never traveled anywhere using public transport and I am always at home during the time stated.

So I am pretty sure that I did not do anything remotely close to what the claim states.

A brief search tells me "just pay, you will have more trouble opposing them". Especially since I live alone and nobody can prove that I was in fact at home, that I never travel to that street and that I never used public transport that day or never had issues with controllers.

Can I at least require them to provide evidence I did it? If so, what can I request?

The message states that the collector agency, "infoscore Forderungsmanagement GmbH" was requested by "S-Bahn Berlin GmbH". They also "warn" that I will be fined more should I not pay the fine of around 150 euro.

I have found an "EBE Nr." in the form. BVG (Berlin public transport) has a portal dedicated to fines, including an English version. There it is possible to enter the "EBE Number" to object.

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The number in the form starts with 506230 - so I suspect it is not real. What can I do about checking whether it is a valid fine?

  • Do you really need legal advice at this point? It sounds like you're not sure if this is even real. Why not just find a contact number on their website and ask? – Chris Hayes Jun 5 '18 at 19:20
  • @ChrisHayes this was the only SE resource somehow suitable for this question (in my opinion). I also wanted to know what can I do (if anything) to prove my innocence - or for what matters - why I even have to do this. If you have another SE in mind - please suggest, I'll gladly move the topic there – Alma Do Jun 5 '18 at 19:27
  • What answer do you expect? It appears to be an obvious scam and you should contact the agency immediately to both notify them and refuse the fine. – Nij Jun 5 '18 at 19:31
  • Please note that the S-Bahn in Berlin is NOT part of the BVG, but belongs to Deutsche Barn - that might be a reason why you didn't find the given number – Arsak Oct 7 '18 at 12:07
  • @Marzipanherz you're correct - that was exactly the reason. I was able to track things from S-Bahn (though the whole case is now stuck on their side for months) – Alma Do Oct 8 '18 at 9:21
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There are several plausible possibilities.

  1. This is a scam and isn't actually from the public transit authorities, in which case paying them hasn't helped you, and has contributed to this being a problem in the future for others. The payment information may have some subtle differences from the correct information and may actually go to the fraudster. The EBE number discrepancy makes this the most likely scenario in my opinion.

  2. There was a technical error. Maybe someone with a name similar to your was really cited, but due to a typo, your name was entered instead and the street address and corrected name were entered via some sort of autocorrect function. Somebody got lucky and avoided the ticket that should have gone to them. Maybe somebody went into the wrong field in the ticket entry system which could also explain the EBE number error.

  3. Someone has stolen your identity (perhaps a refugee) and is going around with a fake ID using your name and address. This doesn't explain the EBE number discrepancy, however.

  4. I've also heard of cases in some big cities where two people have the same name and birthdate and are constantly getting tickets meant for the other person but don't discover this fact for many years. Maybe someone like that recently moved into your town. This also doesn't explain the EBE number error.

The bottom line is that even though it would perhaps be cheaper and less time consuming in the short run to just pay the fine, I would not recommend doing that in this case.

In scenario 1, you really have a moral civic duty to take a little extra effort to identify a fraudster who is preying on lots of people in your community.

In scenario 2, you again, have something of a moral civic duty to help the transit system get this problem fixed, and who knows, it might be a technical problem that is prone to recur and if you don't address it the first time, people will assume that your "confession" of fault by paying the first ticket undermines your credibility if it happens again.

In scenarios 3 and 4, the problem is likely to recur and so you have an interest beyond this transaction in sorting out the situation.

While your bare assertions that this didn't happen might fall on somewhat deaf ears as potentially self-serving, when corroborated by the fact that you have a monthly pass, I think that the likelihood that you would be found to be credible and beat the ticket is great in your case. Germany is less corrupt in bureaucratic matters like this than most countries on Earth. If this is a scenario 1 situation, the legitimate transit agency wouldn't even have a record of the existence of a ticket in the system, so you could be reassured that you would be at no risk if you didn't pay it.

Given the EBE number problem, it is quite possible that even if you did try to pay it and it was simply a human data entry problem or something (or maybe your ex or a high school bully you defied and forgot about is now a transit cop and trying to inflict revenge) that you might not get proper credit for it anyway, so talking to a person at the agency is probably necessary anyway.

So, my advice would be to talk to a human being in their office, ideally by telephone (without using the ticket to determine the proper telephone number as the number on the ticket would be a scam in scenario 1), but in person, if necessary, to get to the bottom of this. If this didn't work, I would write a letter or email with a copy of the ticket enclosed. If this falls on deaf ears, I would even consider making a police report of a suspected fraud, or even enlisting a local newspaper reporter or television news reporter in pursuing this situation because it is odd and would resonate with the general public.

All of this will be a pain and won't necessary make narrow economic sense, but we don't always have a choice about when duty calls to fix a problem or what problem that will end up being.

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    Thank you, I didn't consider all possible options. Nevertheless, what I will do is: go to their office (XXI century, still no means to communicate other than in person) and just figure out what it is. Luckily, it's not too far away. – Alma Do Jun 5 '18 at 19:45
  • @AlmaDo Best of luck! – ohwilleke Jun 5 '18 at 19:47
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    I actually went to the office. It's not scam and it actually doesn't look good either. Not sure if I should post how the story goes. – Alma Do Jun 6 '18 at 19:06
  • How is it going? – whymatter Jul 23 '18 at 20:35
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    @whymatter well, I wrote them a message (both to S-Bahn and to the collector company) with the demand to provide evidences. I've also prepared to consult the lawyer. But the thing is - I got an official ID of response from S-Bahn and that they will reply in 3 weeks, but that was in July and nothing happened ever since. No mails, no replies, nothing. Like the whole case disappeared. I'm still on guard - who knows, may be they just wait till the fee grows more? But I have the ID of their response and the date so I think any lawyer will be able to easily refute that fee. – Alma Do Oct 7 '18 at 12:11
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So the story got a continuation. The debt collectors actually insist on me paying the fee and I think I will have to do it, because...

The debt collector answered the request I placed regarding providing a proof that it was me - yes, that late, after more than half a year, but still. It appears that the identification document they used was my old Medical Insurance card - they don't specify that it was a medical insurance but by the ID number they provided I searched my mail and found the pdf from my insurance company with it. This also explains how they got my date of birth and the address - first is printed out on the card, second is easy to get from the Burgeramt (Citizen Office) using this level of ID card.

And all of this lines up well with the fact that I lost my Medical Insurance card back then in April and requested it again. So some not so great citizen used my card as an ID when was caught by a controller.

And here's a catch - I didn't immediately notice that I lost the card. I was able to get my request in pdf to the insurance company where I ask them to provide me with a replacement, but.. as it always goes, dates don't work well for me. My request is in the future relative to the date the debt collector specify as the date when the controller caught that not so nice citizen

Hence I think I have no way out: they could easily argue that "you got caught and then you decided to get rid on your Medical Insurance card to not pay a fine". Just in case I will try to contact a lawyer, but I think there's not much I can do here.

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    I would still fight it (although I'm not German). You say "debt collectors", so I guess this is a civil charge rather than a criminal fine. You should write to the debt collectors stating what happened and that you do not accept their claim. They will then either have to drop the matter or take you to court. You can testify on oath what happened and show your monthly ticket, they merely have someone who saw an ID card with your name on. Assuming Germany has the "balance of evidence" principle you should be OK. In practice the debt collection company will probably drop the case. – Paul Johnson Jan 25 '19 at 22:36
  • @PaulJohnson I'm planning on getting a consultation from a lawyer here. There's still a bit of time so if they react quickly and the case is winnable - I go this way. – Alma Do Jan 26 '19 at 21:52

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