East Lancashire's main train operator is deploying a team of digital fraud experts to catch persistent fare dodgers.

Northern has issued a warning that offenders with a ‘proven pattern of behaviour’ should expect to be prosecuted for historic cases of fare evasion.

Once identified, persistent fare dodgers on its services can expect to be prosecuted for historic cases of fare evasion as well as the journey for which they were caught.

Government-owned Northern operates the East Lancashire Line from Preston to Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley, Nelson and Colne as well services to Darwen, Clitheroe, Bolton and Manchester.

Where there is a ‘proven pattern of behaviour’ the train operator’s Debt Recovery and Prosecutions Unit (DRPU) will build a case for the courts that outlines the full scale of the perpetrator’s deception over many years.

With 70 per cent of tickets for Northern services now bought online, the Digital Fraud Investigations Team within the DRPU can scrutinise the circumstances of suspected fare evasion incidents in much more detail.

Mark Powles, commercial and customer director at Northern, said: “Fare evasion hasn’t been as simple as people just not buying a ticket for quite some time.

“There are people who try to outsmart the system through a complex process of fraudulent refund requests, delay repay claims and a process known as ‘short faring’.

“What those people might not realise is that, as with any electronic transaction, our systems are able to identify suspicious activity and bring it to the attention of our specialist investigators.”

Northern created its Digital Fraud Investigations Team in 2021 in response to the surge in digital ticketing post-pandemic.

They have contributed to the DRPU’s investigations into 108,681 reports of attempted fare evasion in the 2022-23 financial year.

The team’s in-house prosecutors attended 301 court sittings during the same period, helping to secure 14,072 convictions and recoup £2,851,883 of lost revenue for the taxpayer.

The train operator has recently advertised a vacancy for a revenue enforcement delivery manager to join the team responsible for clamping down on fare evasion. The closing date for applications is this Sunday.

Northern’s warning has been issued ahead of International Fraud Awareness Week (November 12 to 18) – an event to highlight the global effort to minimize the impact of fraud on society.