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LIRR e-mail said riders charged for tix they didn't buy

An LIRR train navigates down the tracks in

An LIRR train navigates down the tracks in Queens. (Jan. 6, 2007) Photo Credit: Newsday File / Robert Mecea

Untold numbers of LIRR riders got a jolt of sticker shock Tuesday when they read e-mailed confirmation notices of tickets that the railroad said the riders had purchased and were in the mail.

The problem was, the customers hadn't actually bought the tickets, but the note informed them that they were apparently being charged for them.

"Thank you for using Long Island Rail Road WebTicket to make your ticket purchase(s)," read one notice e-mailed to a rider Tuesday. "Your order . . . is being shipped in 1 envelope(s). This e-mail serves as confirmation that envelope number 1 was mailed on 1/26/2010. You should receive this package in 1-3 business days."

The notice further encouraged people with questions to call a toll-free number, 800-649-NYNY.

Tuesday, LIRR officials said the confirmations, which could have been sent out to thousands of people who have bought tickets in the past through an online service called WebTicket, were the result of a computer snag and that it was being resolved.

Customers who did not purchase the tickets would not be charged, officials said.

"It's a glitch," said LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone. "The vendor is working on it. We're in touch with the vendor to fix it."

Calderone said the vendor, Metavante, handles the backup systems for the LIRR's WebTicket program and the Mail&Ride subscriber program, and that anyone who had bought a ticket through the service in the last 30 days could be hit with the phony notices.

Officials at the ticket-processing firm could not be reached for comment.

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