The Case Of The Phantom I-Pass Transponder

Reader and commenter ChicagoOutfit is having trouble with Illinois’ much-loved tollway system. His I-Pass account has someone else’s transponder attached to it and he’s paying for some random jerk’s tolls. He calls the ISTHA and has it removed, but Illinois doesn’t refund his money and the transponder keeps coming back.

(For those of you who have never lived in the good state of Illinois, I-Pass is like E-Z Pass in other states, but presumably more corrupt and less efficient due to its association with the State of Illinois. For those of you who don’t know what E-Z pass is, it’s a thing that lets you pay tolls without opening your window or stopping.)

Hey there Consumerist,
I’m not sure this is a “tip”… but I’m wondering if someone out there can help me move forward with an annoying problem I’ve had all year with the Illinois I-Pass system’s billing:

Later this morning (Wednesday, Oct. 24) will be the fifth time this year that I have to call and tell them that they have, yet again, tied someone else’s I-Pass transponder to my account… deducting money from my debit account each time said other person uses his/her rouge I-Pass transponder and brings my account down to a $10.00 “re- fill” amount. And, it’s the same rogue I-Pass transponder every single time (#01500376144) this year!

I have been “assured” that it will not happen again on each previous occasion, but it never holds true. All Illinois I-Pass does is delete said rogue I-Pass from my account, but *never* credits me back the money deducted by the rouge I-Pass! I have no other debit account that I could tie mine to (and in Illinois, if you do not use the I- Pass system… you pay double the toll fee), if not I’d just turn it off. I’ve been in Beijing, China for over a week and can see the usage of the rogue I-Pass transponder on my account.

- What can I do to force them to give me every cent the rogue I-Pass transponder (#01500376144) has used this year?
– What can I threaten them with should this happen again?

Thanks,
Art
(ChicagoOutfit)

We took a look at the I-Pass Terms & Conditions and there was no information about obtaining a refund, except to say that all disputes must be be submitted, in writing, within 180 days of the transponder’s use to:

TOLLWAY CUSTOMER CARE CENTER
2700 Ogden Ave.
Downers Grove, Illinois 60515

We assume this office has a garbage can underneath a mail slot, but that’s just our experience with Illinois talking. Our gut says you’re probably going to need a lawyer if writing them at this address doesn’t work. We might also recommend removing the automatic refill function from the I-Pass account for now, though when the jerk depletes all your money, I-Pass will start sending you toll violation notices. Those aren’t much fun.

Has this happened to anyone else? How did you fix it?

Anyone gotten their money back?

(Photo:Viewoftheworld)

Comments

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  1. Chicago7 says:

    Wow. What a great hack. I blame the increasing number of Russian immigrants, who have no scruples.

  2. Chicago7 says:

    There should be a smiley after that last post!

  3. ooolam says:

    That sucks. Can’t you just close your account and reopen a new one?

  4. TheBigLewinski says:

    Each transponder has a unique identifier that is read and linked back to your account Perhaps someone cloned the ID of your current tansponder. If that is the case, I would get a replacement transponder and return the offending one, the new one will have a different ID.

  5. mcevil says:

    Does it list thier car under the registered vehicles too? the transponder should have a plate number associated with it too.

  6. ptkdude says:

    If I-Pass is anything like the Georgia CruiseCard, when the account gets depleted and they start sending toll violation notices they will include a photo of the car with the license plate. That can then be used to figure out WHO is using the iPass that keeps getting linked to your account. I’m not saying that person is doing anything wrong, but at least at that point the tollway authority will know who they should be billing.

  7. mgiampapa says:

    In most systems if the EZpass or whatever does not work a picture of the car’s plates are taken and that is used to send the violation notice, not the account holder on the transponder.

  8. DeeJayQueue says:

    The only thing I can think of is to cancel the service outright, and then re-open a brand new account with a new transponder.

    It seems like 1 of 3 things is happening.
    a) his transponder # is close to the other one.

    b) his name is the same or similar as the other person’s

    c) his debit account is similar to the other person’s.

    or any combination thereof.

  9. winter_in_asia says:

    This sounds like a problem with the bank account. Maybe the guy with the other transponder mistakenly (or otherwise) is using *ChicagoOutfit’s* account information. Maybe a dispute with the bank is the best way to handle it.

    There’s also just switching the account it’s tied to. Then you could issue a chargeback if the state connects to the account again.

  10. LawyerontheDL says:

    Just make sure that you submit a protest in writing within 180 days of the problem. That’s the type of contract language that can trip you up when you wind up having to sue them. Send the dispute certified, return receipt requested would be a good idea too.

  11. STrRedWolf says:

    Not only that, I would remove the autodebit from the I-Pass and contest every bill you get. If they don’t mark that transponder as stolen in a month, and you get no responce about your snail-mail’ed contesting of the bill, I’d sue.

  12. jmonte says:

    From my travels, EZPass works where IPass works. If IPass is not doing a good job as your “electronic toll provider”, then just close your IPass account and open an EZPass account. I believe the difference in tolls is cash payment vs. electronic payment, notIPass vs other methods of payment.

  13. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @Chicago7:

    Strange — I guess all the people who flagged your post (dissing all immigrants from a whole country) missed the smiley.

  14. lincolnparadox says:

    Have you considered opening a criminal file with local or state authorities? You’re not exactly filing charges, but you’d be asking the police to look into it. All ezpass terminals on highway system have video capability. It wouldn’t be hard for them to catch this person if they’re using their car, take a pic of their license plate.

    But, that’s just to catch the bad guy. If you’re just after your refund, write your State Senator. Explain your situation and ask for assistance. Then, write a letter to the editor to your local paper, and cc it to papers in Chicago and Springfield. Leave your contact info. You might even get on TV?

  15. Buran says:

    Tie the account to a credit card instead of debit, since then you can dispute the charges and once your bank starts bouncing the charges and they have to fight with your bank, not you, to get their ill-gotten gains, they’ll turn their act around a lot faster.

  16. Nighthawke says:

    @Lincoln
    Concur on filing a complaint with the police. They’ll be able to subpoena for the tapes and see who is running through the gates with your transponder ID. This does reek of some joker that is hacking pikepasses.

  17. Adam Hyland says:

    It’s rogue Ipasses. Check on those. I’m not so worried about rouge ipasses. :)

  18. amejr999 says:

    I’m assuming there’s some level of governmental responsibility for this program. If that’s the case, calling one of your State representatives will likely do the trick.

  19. JohnMc says:

    When the system is this screwed up on a single individual then the system is screwed up for everybody. That means it’s CLASS ACTION TIME kids!!

    1) Find a lawyer experienced in class action cases. See if they will work on contingency. Have your ducks in a row and show him the errors and your attempts to correct it.

    2) You most likely will need to run an ad in some papers asking for people who have had the same problem. Probably need to find 4-5 people who have similar documentation and willing to participate.

    3) Let the lawyer take it from there. If he’s hot to get his fee he will make the case as frightening as possible for the I-Pass folks.

    It will cost you some money. But when you get angry enough of being screwed by the system money is not the issue. It’s time to fight back.

    Good luck!

  20. That “Tollway Customer Care Service” address is literally 10 minutes from my work, if he needs I can bring his issue to their personal attention. Indeed.

  21. target_veteran says:

    Write the Fixer; I think that column is in the Sun Times. They generally have a pretty good success rate with this kind of stuff, and problems with Chicago governance are a rather common theme in the papers.

  22. scoosdad says:

    @LastVigilante: That wouldn’t involve a hammer now would it?

  23. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    @LastVigilante: Oooh like with a hammer? To someone’s keyboard? Score!

    I’d suggest cancelling this transponder/I-pass account completely. Unsubscribe from the service and let the dust settle for a week. Then re-subscribe. Hopefully this might help?

  24. Chicago7 says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS:

    Oh, please. Read the Wall Street Journal or the NY Times once in a while, why don’t you? The Russian Mafia is bigger and better than any organized crime syndicate ever and they do most of it with high tech.

  25. Chicago7 says:

    Oh, and I said the Germans were nuts about Hasselhof and liked that weirdo tech music in another thread. I must hate all Germans, too.

  26. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @Chicago7:

    So you DIDN’T mean it in jest?

    (Waits for more flagged comment reports to hit inbox)

  27. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @Chicago7:

    And saying Germans are nuts about Hasselhoff and the weirdo techno music isn’t dissing people like saying they have no scruples.

    OK… maybe the Hasselhoff part could be considered a diss…

  28. isadora says:

    I’m having a different iPass problem. It rarely deducts the money from my iPass and it never shows a violation on the website. Perhaps this fellow is paying my tolls?

    Fearing toll violations or other oddities after not getting the pre-authorized amount deducted for a couple of months, I checked their website. Nothing, except the occassion odd trip off my well-beaten path to work. I’ve never seen one for my regular route come through and there is no opportunity to pay up to avoid later fees.

    I read a few weeks ago that the tollway authority knows they are having massive iPass problems, particularly in areas where they have “open road tolling” (which is what I used everyday) where the iPass user has no indication as to whether the system debited their account! Supposedly, they are about a year behind in catching up on these supposedly “delinquent” tolls.

    Basically, when they catch up to these “delinquencies” they can debit your account for the full amount you owe without warning (which, after a year of shoddy coverage and daily use, could be quite substantial).

    I’m not sure what to do about it, except try to keep an extra $300 in my checking account just in case! I installed the stupid transponder as directed, checked the battery, and tried to pay online when I noticed there was a problem. I don’t know what else to do. I guess I could get another transponder but I know from using traditional tolling booths that it works in those situations. I should probably care more about this issue than I have up until now, no?

  29. Nytmare says:

    I think someone with malicious intent would not be wasting that kind of effort for a mere 5 uses.

  30. Caprica Six says:

    Can you use a credit card and chargeback each time a rouge charge appaears? I know all he had was a debit card, so not sure.

  31. e_cubed99 says:

    Does I-Pass send paper bills via USPS? If so you can throw the specter of Mail Fraud at them. Postal Inspectors scare most people.

  32. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    @e_cubed99:
    Nothing scares the Ill. Tollway people except the specter of Springfield abolishing it!
    The Tri-State was supposed to become a free road in 1980, so the tollway came up with the Sterling to Rock Falls extension of the East-West Tollway, which of course is a total money pit that has to be subsidized by the Tri-State.
    The tollway is just an arm of the DuPage County GOP machine.

  33. Silversmok3 says:

    Someone in the tollway system is playing games with people’s acounts.This reminds me of a major bank embezzler who also ran the bank’s computert system. He withdrew money and programmed the bank computer to route the balance from one account to another based on days in the calendar.

    He got caught when he forgot to account for leap year in his embezzlement program. Given the State of Illinois’ track record for office corruption, this possibility seems likely.

  34. jburland says:

    This is such a no-brainer….

    There’s either an irregularity with this particular transponder or criminal energies are at work.

    It’s in I-Pass’s interest to remove the rogue transponder from their system immediately and replace it with a new unit.

    They’ll save themselves the legal confrontation that’s about to knock on their front door and – if someone’s piggybacking – they’ll be able to identify them immediately.

    Sooo simple.

  35. djyox says:

    Close your account. Your paying double right now any way by paying for this other assclown’s account. Re-open a new account after a day or two.

    Then I would try talk to the bank about those fradulent charges to your account.

  36. swalve says:

    Jesus H. Christ. Bring your transponder into the office and talk to them. They have never been anything but helpful.

    The Illinois/Chicago snark is unappreciated.

  37. asscore says:

    I have no sympathy for FIB’s….
    maybe you shouldn’t live in a state that makes you pay to use a road! I could swear thats what taxes are for!