San Francisco man held responsible for stolen Clipper card charges

Michael Finney Image
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
San Francisco man held responsible for stolen Clipper card charges
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When a San Francisco man's wallet went missing, he did everything right yet was shocked to find out it wasn't enough.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There are few worse feelings than losing a wallet full of cash and credit cards. If you act fast, you can stop anyone from charging anything on your cards -- or can you?

It came as a big surprise for a San Francisco man. Somebody grabbed his wallet and he thought he did everything right. He reported it missing, canceled the credit cards yet he was shocked to find out it wasn't enough.

Bruce Mirken recalled the sickening feeling. "I was rushing. I probably dropped it," he said.

Right after he jumped on a BART train, he realized he'd dropped his wallet on the platform.

"I noticed it was gone immediately after the train door shut," Mirken remembered. The train whisked him away, his wallet left behind.

"I went one stop, came back, retraced my steps, hoped I could find it, didn't find it," he said.

Mirken spent the next frantic hours canceling his credit cards, gas cards and the Clipper card he uses on BART.

"I thought, OK. This is a pain in the you-know-what but I acted fast enough. It won't be too bad," Mirken remembered thinking.

Sure enough, he went online and found no one had used any of his credit cards. However, the Clipper card was a different story.

"I look on my Clipper account online and see that somebody has been using it all day," Mirken said.

It turns out a thief had been criss-crossing the Bay Area all day using his Clipper card. The person hopped an AC Transit bus, then BART to San Francisco, then a bus to Oakland and back to the city again.

"I don't know if it was joy riding or if they were doing their business," Mirken said.

The thief racked up $24 in charges. Mirken figured he wasn't responsible. After all, he'd reported it missing right away.

He was surprised to find out he had to pay for that thief's rides.

"Oh, you're on the hook for whatever is charged that whole day," Mirken said.

He was stunned when Clipper pointed to this clause deep in its contract. It says the cardholder is responsible for charged until the end of the day when the card was reported lost or stolen.

"Let's think about this. Clipper is basically saying to a thief, you can steal somebody's card, we'll let you use it all day, and we'll charge the customer," Mirken said.

He contacted 7 On Your Side and we asked Clipper why they didn't shut off the card right away.

Spokesperson John Goodwin said it's a technical issue. Clipper has to instruct every card reader in the Bay Area to block the card and some systems, like most buses, don't update their systems until midnight each day.

So the card stays active until then. Mirken believes this is a flaw that should be fixed.

"Here we are in the technology capital of the known universe. Every credit card company can manage to get word out through their system instantly if a card needs to be blocked...Clipper can't?" Mirken asked.

Clipper says it's working on a computer update but it will take years and the new system may or may not instantly block stolen cards.

On top of everything, Mirken tried to get a new card but Clipper said he had to pay a $5 fee with a credit card. But all his were blocked.

Mirken no longer uses Clipper. "I just buy paper BART tickets," he said.

7 On Your Side contacted the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Dave Cortese and he promised to take this issue to the commission and fight for a remedy.

Clipper says it doesn't keep track of how much money is charged on cards after they're stolen.

If you've had an experience like this, let 7 On your Side know about it.