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Bus company halts online ticket sales, cites ‘extraordinary amount of fraud’

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It just became more difficult to travel to the north country.

Adirondack Trailways and New York Trailways, Hurley, the north country’s only major intercity bus carrier, has discontinued the online sale of all tickets to Canton and tickets departing New York City for Potsdam because of what the company describes as “widespread fraud.”

“We have had an extraordinary amount of fraud buying tickets on our website to Canton,” said Anne M. Noonan, Trailways vice president of marketing and traffic. “This involved the counterfeiting of tickets to receive free rides on our buses.”

The company’s website will not allow users to purchase rides to Canton.

“I believe you can buy a ticket to Potsdam, but you can’t buy a ticket to Canton,” Ms. Noonan said. “If it had been one or two instances of fraud, I may have overlooked it, but it was becoming significantly costly to the company.”

Ms. Noonan said the company had discontinued the online sales previously for a short time, hoping the counterfeiting would cease.

“We had this problem last year with Canton,” she said. “We shut website sales down. We waited a period of time hoping it would clear up. Within weeks of us putting it back on, the fraud started again. It is not likely anytime in the near future that we would resume those sales.”

Trailways buses provide the only public transportation between Canton and Potsdam and urban centers downstate. Many students at SUNY Canton, SUNY Potsdam, St. Lawrence University, Canton, and Clarkson University, Potsdam, who lack cars depend on the buses to travel between the north country and home.

“I do know that this would affect many students from the area,” said Carolina Batista, a SUNY Potsdam student and Brooklyn native. “We get our tickets in advance, sometimes because we’re traveling so far away it is not that easy or cheap to get tickets. It would be difficult to get them ourselves.”

Representatives of the colleges and universities said they had no reports of their students printing counterfeit tickets.

“We have not heard of any students from SUNY Canton counterfeiting Trailways tickets,” said Gregory E. Kie, SUNY Canton spokesman.

The policy change is disappointing because it punishes law-abiding students along with the counterfeiters, said Michael P. Griffin, Clarkson University spokesman.

“If they were limiting our ability to buy tickets online, I would find that very disappointing,” he said. “I think problems with booking a ticket online would be more indicative of a problem within the online ticketing system.”

SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University offer charter buses to cities downstate before and after each semester and during extended breaks.

Passengers heading to Canton and Potsdam will still be able to purchase rides from ticketing agents in bus terminals.

“Our students are very high-tech and comfortable with working online. If they had to travel somewhere to buy a ticket, a place with limited hours, it would be disappointing for them,” Mr. Griffin said.

Ms. Batista said the students would have to adjust to buying their tickets in person.

“We have to be more active about getting to stations on time,” she said. “I leave from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It is very difficult to do. There are long lines; there are different places. We also have to rush because we have to get to school on time. It is not easy at all.”

Adirondack Trailways and New York Trailways are franchises of the Trailways Transportation System, a group of 80 independent intercity bus companies nationwide.

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