A former UBC student has been charged with fraud in connection with allegedly buying U-Passes issued to other people and reselling them on Craigslist, according to Vancouver transit police.
The UBC alumna, 25-year-old Betty Sze Yu Wong, has been charged with two counts of fraud and is set to appear in court in Vancouver on Dec. 14.
According to Staff Sergeant Ken Schinkel, transit police have been monitoring online avenues where people try to resell U-Passes for some time.
“It’s one of the many things that we try to monitor, in regards to revenue strategy for TransLink,” said Schinkel. “Be aware that if you’re selling a U-Pass, there’s potential for criminal consequences should you be caught doing it.”
Schinkel said the transit police crime reduction unit has made a number of arrests over the past two years relating to various types of transit pass fraud. “Over and above the U-Passes, there’s ministry passes, and there’s monthly passes, and there’s people manufacturing fraudulent passes, so all of that stuff gets looked at,” he said.
UBC’s acting director of transportation planning, Margaret Eckenfelder, said that there was a suspicious spike in students asking for replacement U-Passes at the beginning of this summer, when the one-month passes first came into play. Students taking one- or two-month summer courses were only issued passes in the months when they had classes.
In response, UBC limited the number of replacement passes issued and told students they need to fill out a Campus Security form before replacing a lost pass. The new measures proved successful, according to Eckenfelder; passes are now being replaced less often than they were in the summer, even though roughly twice as many students are at UBC during the fall.
Eckenfelder said UBC takes U-Pass fraud very seriously, and she’s glad transit police do as well. “If I were a student and I actually saw criminal charges being laid against someone for something that I thought was not a big deal, I would think twice about doing it,” she said.
She also warned students that widespread U-Pass fraud could have the potential to endanger the U-Pass program.
“If it proved that a lot of passes were being misused and abused, [TransLink] might consider either cancelling the program — unlikely — or making the program a whole lot more complicated to administer.”
AMS VP External Kyle Warwick, who’s currently involved in negotiating an extension of the U-Pass contract from the student side, agreed that U-Pass fraud by UBC students can hurt negotiations to keep the pass available.
“Because the amount of money that’s lost because of this activity is quite significant,… it’s quite significant in terms of potentially affecting the program in a large way,” he said.
But like Eckenfelder, Warwick stressed that the overall level of pass fraud at UBC is down since this summer. He said he hopes that further enforcement from transit police will keep this trend going.
Schinkel said that the investigation connected with Wong’s arrest continues, and further charges may be pending for other individuals involved.
—This article was updated on November 4 to include comment from Margaret Eckenfelder and Kyle Warwick