Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Token Sucker! (from the NY Times) 2.03.04

Of 25,382 repairs in December, 16,936 involved the bill-handling unit. About 45 percent of these - or 30 percent of all repairs - were caused by tampering. The tamperer's goal is to break the machine so that riders will be forced to use the services of a person who just happens to be waiting nearby with a handful of unlimited-ride day passes offering to swipe people through for $2.

"They start a transaction," said Antonio Suarez, chief officer of automated fare collection equipment maintenance for the transit agency. "Instead of money, they introduce a card or a foreign object."

"What these guys will do is they will purchase multiples of those cards and just switch them as they're swiping people through and charge them two bucks apiece," said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the New York City Police Department.

The scam was in full view on a recent afternoon at the station at 125th Streeet and Lexington Avenue, where a group of men jostled to swipe riders through the turnstiles. All three MetroCard machines in the station were out of commission.

Officials say the scam represents an evolution of the extinct art of "token sucking," in which a person would clog the token slot with a matchbook or even glue. After the stymied rider walked away, the token sucker would clamp his lips over the receptacle and suck the token out, then turn around and resell it. The scam produced repair headaches similar to those the transit agency is experiencing with MetroCard. Repair crews used to fix turnstiles at a clip of about 250 a day, about 60 percent of them because of paper stuffed in the token slots.

Some of the swipers of today, as they are nicknamed, have stumbled upon a MetroCard quirk in which someone can bend a discarded card a certain way, then swipe it through a card reader three times quickly and somehow end up with a $2 credit.

[--stupid token wrecking f**kers.--]

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