S bahn in Berlin

I am traveling in Germany right now and wonder if anyone else had the same experience I did. While traveling on the S bahn in Berlin, a man with no identification gestured to me that my ticket was no good. He escorted me off the train at the next stop and demanded 40 Euros, saying I had committed a crime in Germany. His English was very limited, as is my German, but the thought of being tossed into German prison convinced me to fork over the money. Was this a scam or legitimate? Thank you.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10759 posts

Scam. Deutsche Bahn employees usually wear uniforms. There are rarely plain-clothes Polizei on the trains, but by law, they're placed there under warrant for a specific investigation. They can only act outside their warrant in cases of emergencies. Sorry you got conned.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
13450 posts

So why did he say the ticket was no good? Did you buy it from a ticket automat in a station, or from a counter? Or did you buy it from someone on the street? Did the ticket say it was valid for that date? If not a dated ticket, had you cancelled it in one of the stamping machines when you got on? On the correct side of the correct end? You put undated tickets into the stamping machine with the words "Hier entwerten" up on the end that goes in. Why did you so easily give up and accept that the ticket was invalid? Sounds like a scam to me. The only time I have seen a ticket inspector on an S-Bahn (Munich) he was in a uniform. And, he was not accepting cash, but writing tickets. You said his English was limited. Did he speak Italian? Sounds like the Italian ticket scam just being run in a different country.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22540 posts

anita, The fact that he wasn't able to produce any identification would have been the first "red flag" for me. I'm not overly familiar with the penalties in Germany, but I suspect that not having a valid ticket would result in a fine (as in Italy) but there's no possibility you would have been thrown into prison. Unfortunately, I agree with the others that you were probably scammed. Hope the rest of your holiday goes well.

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
2636 posts

Scam. I have seen inspectors in plain clothes on the Berlin transport system but they always show an ID card as soon as they start checking tickets.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4418 posts

Hi, Yes, I believe it was scam. As others have said here, DB personnel are going to be in uniform. Even their security is in uniform, which is indicated on their little patches. I was asked to show my Passport (not in Berlin) once on a recent trip by a plain clothes policeman but he had ID which I saw. He checked other passengers too. But that was on a Regional Bahn. They also usually work in pairs. If you validated the ticket in the "Hier entwerten" space and were in the allowed time frame (120 mins ?), you had nothing to worry about on the S-Bahn. I've never been checked either on the S-Bahn.

Posted by Will
Columbia, SC
337 posts

Berlin S-Bahn and U-Bahn inspectors wear plainclothes, not Deutsche Bahn (national railway) uniforms. The key is the identification; inspectors always show it immediately. They also check every passenger around them and don't target individuals. Also, the payment method-- real inspectors write you a ticket to be paid later; they don't demand cash.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5538 posts

Controllers are often in plain clothes, not in uniforms. They all get on a car together though and everyone has to show their ticket. Plus they have electronic gadgets for writing tickets, or scanning them. A single person getting on a car and asking one passenger for their ticket is a dead give away that it is a scam. Also, the ticket controllers do accept cash and prefer to be paid on the spot.