Pensioner couple are living in fear of debt collectors turning up at their home over rail fare dodging across western Europe – despite not having gone abroad for 15 years
An elderly couple are being chased by rail firms and debt collectors for fare dodging throughout Western Europe – despite not having gone abroad for 15 years.
David and Marjorie Ball receive up to two letters a week demanding payment for train journeys they have not taken.
Businesses in France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK have been sending threatening messages to the couple since 2017, leaving them in fear that debt collectors will start turning up at their home.
They arranged for a solicitor to draft a ‘cease and desist’ letter which is sent out to the companies but most ignore them.
‘The demands are for about 150 Euros each time. It is not in our name but for our address,’ said retired computer engineer Mr Ball, 81, of Luton, Bedfordshire.
David and Marjorie Ball (pictured) receive up to two letters a week demanding payment for train journeys they have not taken
Businesses in France , Germany , Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK have been sending threatening messages to the couple since 2017, leaving them in fear that debt collectors will start turning up at their home. Pictured above is one of letters they received
‘I have been pondering how this person can walk onto a train with no ticket. He gets stopped and they say ‘What are your details?’ And he gives them a false name and our address.
‘I can’t understand why they did not make any more checks, to ask the person what they are doing on an international railway without any money.
‘I can’t work out who it is – whether it is someone we have upset in the past who I can’t think of or whether it is just random.’
Mrs Ball, 78, a former secretary, added: ‘We just wait for the letters to drop at our door and think ‘Oh god, I hope it’s not another one’. Your stomach turns.’
She added: ‘There’s always a fear of debt collectors knocking on the door. So far it’s not happened but we just don’t know where it’s all going to end.’
The fare dodger has used aliases including Ashley Wills, Michael Roschu and David Barnfield.
The first penalty letter, from Virgin Rail, arrived in 2017 asking for £165.50 for a journey from Crewe in Cheshire to Euston in London.
‘I spoke to them and the woman there quashed it straight away, sent an apology and there was no problem,’ Mr Ball said.
He and his wife spent £400 on the solicitor’s letter to fire off to other firms but said it was ‘wasted money’ as foreign companies ignore it. They are being chased for seven fares at present.
They also tried contacting Action Fraud but were advised to call Bedfordshire Police.
‘I heard the officer, who was speaking to a superior, say ‘No, he is not senile’,’ Mr Ball said.
They couple (pictured together) arranged for a solicitor to draft a ‘cease and desist’ letter which is sent out to the companies but most ignore them
‘I phoned them up again the other week. The woman was quite good and took everything down but advised me to go back to Action Fraud. So I am going round in circles.
‘Both me and my wife are old age pensioners and it’s just beating us down day after day, never knowing what to expect in the post.’
One letter came from a company called Credit Limits International, issued on behalf of SNCF, French National Public Railways.
It said: ‘The French Treasury may instruct doorstep collection agents to visit you at the above address.’
CLI have since agreed not to send any more letters but others continue to arrive from other firms.
The latest demand was to pay 165.97 Euros to debt collectors by September 9 on behalf of a German rail firm.
The couple don’t have any children and have lived in the same house for 36 years. It was new when they bought it, so no one else has lived there.
Their last holiday abroad was Cuba in 2008 and since then they have gone no further than the south coast of England – and insist they always drive.
‘We are nowhere near getting to the bottom of it. We have got to the court stage in the Netherlands. I’m not going,’ added Mr Ball.
The latest demand was to pay 165.97 Euros to debt collectors by September 9 on behalf of a German rail firm
The fare dodger has used aliases including Ashley Wills, Michael Roschu and David Barnfield. Pictured above is a letter from Virgin Trains about an unpaid fare for a journey from London Euston to Chester
‘We try to push it to the back of our minds but it just flares up. We think ‘Is it ever going to go away?’
‘We have got enough evidence to show them though. I have a ten-year passport that expired in 2022 and has nothing in it.’
The Rail Delivery Group said it couldn’t comment on individual cases but added: ‘When someone is issued a penalty fare, the address provided to the ticket inspector will be used for correspondence.
‘Revenue protection staff will, wherever possible, try and verify and address.’
Anyone wrongly sent a demand letter should ‘inform the relevant authority that the fine in question is not related to them’.