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“Is there anything I can do about someone using up all credit on a lost Smartrip?”

by Prince Of Petworth April 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm 41 Comments

metro card stolen
Photo by PoPville flickr user nevermindtheend

“Dear PoPville,

Is there anything I can do about someone using up all credit on a lost Smartrip? I usually bike to work and so take the metro rarely but have an automatic metro credit loaded by my employer. I realized my card was missing now (a month + after the fact) and on my online account realized someone has been using my Smartrip to commute and used up $60+ of credit from my card. Shoot! Is there anything I can do to get that money back? Smartrip customer service told me it’s not their problem since I didn’t report the card missing immediately while metro police told me that customer service would want to know and could credit me. I have this person’s whole schedule of trips and the stops they got off at, etc. and feel like they must have been caught on camera multiple times. Any chance I’m going to get my money back?

  • ktana

    No

    • ktana

      After my curt initial reply, I reflected further and should add that I have some sympathy for the question. I remember when I moved to DC for my first job a decade ago (a rewarding but low-payed, entry-level non-profit work), $60 would have been a large amount for me to lose, and I too would have wanted to find a way to get it back. Now that I have more financial security, that amount doesn’t seem like enough to make a fuss over, but it’s good to remind myself/ourselves that everyone has a different personal reality. All that said, the answer is still “no”, there isn’t a way to get those funds back.

  • Florista

    Sorry, but I think this loss is on you. Metro can’t check video for every rider claiming to have lost their farecard – they can barely keep up with the crime on trains! I hope you register your new card and have a consistent, safe place to keep it while not in use.

    • Shelley

      What Florista said

  • kittycatbob

    No, but make sure you cancelled the card!

  • U st.

    This sucks. I had this happen to me before. It was a couple of weeks before I realized it was gone. It was registered and I went on-line and saw where they drained it. I told my self a little story that maybe a needy person found it and was using it to commute to support their family to make myself feel better about it. I just reported it lost or stolen and cancelled it. A shame because my first thought would be to turn in a smart card I found.

    • Anon Spock

      I never do because I figure enough people don’t register cards that the money will be lost in the ether. For the rest, I assume they’ll cancel it in a day or 2 and move on.

      • just my opinion

        OK, sorry, no, Anon Spock. You have just tried to justify stealing someone else’s money for some really flimsy reasons and frankly there is absolutely no reason at all to not turn in lost property. There is absolutely no excuse for not taking the 2 minutes to turn in a smart card. OP–this is a bit of a stretch but was the money linked to a credit card with theft protection? It is a stretch but that’s the only thing I can think of here.

        • MadMax

          It wasn’t stolen though, s/he lost it.

          • just my opinion

            I am (inarticulately) responding to Anon Spock saying she keeps Smart Trips that she finds. To me, keeping them rather then turning them in is stealing. It doesn’t belong to you and you know it. Yes, the OP lost their card, but the person kept it and used it, even though it was registered to someone else. That is also (to me) considered stealing.

          • Anon

            I do wish there was a way to find out if cards were registered easily. Last time I checked, it was not. I have found several (5-6?). I pick them up so someone has a chance to cancel if hey have a balance, but I don’t usually turn them in because I don’t ride metro. (Found them on the street/trails and even one at Philadelphia 30th Street Station.) Once a few months pass, I donate them to one of the charities that provide them to people in need.

        • PettyShabazz

          I think she is saying she/he doesn’t turn the card in, not necessarily that he/she instead intends to use a card he/she found.

        • Anon Spock

          Register your card, keep track of it; and if you lose it, cancel it. If I didn’t register my cards, I expect someone else would use it. The alternative of turning it in to sit in a lost and found room or be destroyed is frankly silly…only slightly more silly than not registering a card in the first place. I’m not losing any sleep over it.

          • just my opinion

            As we have seen above in the case of the OP, anyone can use a card that is registered to someone else with zero consequence. Yes, some of us here on PoP seem to be perfect humans who never lose track of anything in our possession, but for the rest of us, maybe spend the 60 seconds to help out a fellow commuter by turning in the card. You pick it up and throw it out rather than turn it in which is willfully selfish or you use it, which is stealing.

        • Jay

          Here’s an excuse for not taking two minutes to turn in a SmartCard: you don’t trust WMATA to actually return the card.

          I’ve found *three* lost SmartTrip cards in the last two months or so and as I’ve considered how to proceed, I called to see what the process for returning a lost card was. The WMATA employee I talked to seemed surprised and amused that someone would try to return a lost card and suggested that I just give it to a station manager or a bus driver or something. Her response did not not seem like a formal policy as much as it was an off-the-cuff guess about what to do.

          In the end, I decided that the smartest way to proceed was to first try and register any found cards. If they were unregistered, they wouldn’t be returned anyway and congrats, you have a new Smart Trip card. If they are registered, throw ’em in a drawer for a few months. When the registered owner discovers that they’re missing, they’ll be able to recover the value.

          • FridayGirl

            Yeah, this is my issue. If I found a card I wouldn’t use it, but I certainly don’t trust WMATA to actually get it back to the person (didn’t they bust some employees for selling stolen cards or something at one point not too long ago? my memory is fuzzy…)

          • textdoc

            Jay, that sounds like a very sensible plan.

          • jumpingjack

            My Smartcard has an address on the back to return it to if lost. My card dates back to when they first started issuing them (2007? 2009?), so this may be out of date.

          • just my opinion

            That’s really interesting and super depressing/discouraging. I’m still team turn-in what one finds just as a habit in general but if WMATA doesn’t give a fig, then I can recognize now it might be pointless. For some good kharma though, maybe donate unregistered found cards to Martha’s Table?

  • MadMax

    No. It’s not illegal for them to use a SmartTrip card. They could just say you gave it to them, and you have no way to prove otherwise. So why would WMATA go through the effort of looking at video footage to track someone for something you failed to even notice yourself? I would chalk this up as a loss and change your approach going forward with what you’ve learned.

  • Idontgetit

    Sorry. This happened to me last summer for $100+. I even saw a reload hit my checking account! You are SOL.

  • Anon Spock

    Report that card lost and put a hold on your reloads until you get a new card in place. Also keep the card at home or work since you’re not going to notice it is missing. You could have stopped the $$$ from being used if only you noticed it sooner; that’s life.

  • Anany

    Is this person serious? It’s his or her own fault for not realizing the card was missing for over a month, which allowed the person to use up the money on it. Next time keep better track of your employer-issued Metro card (a huge privilege, by the way). It isn’t WMATA’s job to find the person who used up the fare (nothing illegal about that, I might add, unless they directly stole it off you) or get you your money back.

    • MadMax

      It’s Friday, that’s when the usual FWP QOL issues trickle in around DC.

      • textdoc

        What’s FWP? I assume QOL is “quality of life.”

        • Anany

          First World Problems

  • OffTheAvenue

    For future: if you register your SmarTrip card on the wmata site, you can take care of any such problems immediately by just logging on to your account there. But, yeah, you have to realize it’s been lost/stolen and then actually do something.

    • BN

      I did this a couple months ago and it was really easy to report your (registered) card as lost/stolen and put your balance on a new card. Though you’d have to have registered your card and noticed it was missing!

  • Yeah – sorry – tick this off for “life lessons.”

  • And to clarify – If you realize you have a lost/stolen SmarTrip card that you have registered, it is super easy to go online, cancel it and transfer the money to a new card. This seems to be a case of someone not realizing the card was stolen until it was too late.

    • FridayGirl

      +1. I’ve done this before, the same day I lost it. Super easy, no fuss, and money was still there. (I also keep a backup card in a different place in case I ever lose mine out of my bag, then at least I have something to put money onto on the bus without much fuss.)

  • anonymouse_dianne

    I am surprised your employer did NOT require that you register your SmartTrip card. I’m a Fed and get money loaded the first of the month, but we are required to have a registered card. Answer: NO.

    • just my opinion

      If they have an online account, it is registered. It sounds to me like the OP may have pre-tax metro fare added from their salary, NOT an employer contribution a la Fed employees. Because the government contribution expires at the end of the money if not used.

  • PJL

    Why should WMATA be expected to reimburse you for you losing your card and not deactivating it? That’s like misplacing a store gift card and expecting the store to give you a new one.

    • U st.

      Actually, some stores will replace your lost/stolen gift card! I am sure these stores cancel the lost/stolen one, though.

  • also anon

    I have no advice for you that hasn’t already been said so I’m going to tell my stolen Smartrip story
    .
    I take metro almost every day so when my card was stolen from an outside pocket on my bag I noticed the minute I got to a metro station and tried to swipe in. I immediately went on the Smartrip site and reported it stolen. The next day I transferred the fund to a new card and saw that someone tried to swipe in my with my stolen card and they were rejected! I felt so smug about that.

    • also anon

      Additional advice: You probably don’t want to put too much money onto your Smartrip if you don’t use it very often. Assuming that’s your pre-tax money you will never be able to get it back from WMATA if you move. WMATA does not refund pre-tax contributions. I’ve had friend trying to sell Smartrip cards with hundreds and hundreds of dollars on them when they move out of the area.

      • Shelley

        I have pre-tax money withdrawn from my Smartrip. The way I thought it worked was that my card doesn’t reload until I use it the first day/week of the month. Perhaps that just my employer. If not, make sure you tell your benefits dept asap to transfer money to a new card. Otherwise, your money becomes a donation to WMATA or your employer.

  • textdoc

    Well, at least this thread prompted me to make sure that my SmarTrip card was registered. (It was — but I didn’t have an online account for it, and to link the two, I had to dig up my work phone number from nine years ago.)

  • tom

    Seems the take aways are:
    1) Register your smart trip card.
    2) Never leave large balances on your card.
    3) Don’t use Auto Reload to link a smarttrip card to your credit card.
    4) If you must do number 2 or 3, check your card like a hawk.

  • Hollister H Reneau

    I really doubt it since you waited a month but it’s worth trying. I’m sure the person that found it didn’t think it of as stealing but just lucky day.

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