Hot tickets are by definition hard to find. Whether you’re trying to wrangle seats for the NBA Finals, Katy Perry, or Justin Bieber, it’s the same story. You’ve dreamt of the event, made all the travel arrangements, and spent hours combing the Internets for the right source of expensive tickets replete with 20% mark-ups in mysterious “fees”. But then, your well-laid plans are unpleasantly thwarted. You discover that no matter how early you got up to purchase the event tickets, thousands of others somehow beat you to it. So then move to Plan B: you decide to check unofficial ticket websites.
After pouring through eBay, Craigslist, StubHub and countless others, somehow you stumble upon some no-name website that has front row seats. And they’re cheap. Or at least they don’t seem to have the egregious fees sported by Ticketmaster (which was sold out anyhow). You’re on cloud nine, and your dreams are still alive. Journey’s reunion show will be the best day of your life…until you realize, the $300 you just dropped was for completely bogus tickets. That’s right, this summer the hottest ticket seems to be the ticket scam.
Fake Tickets Sites
Sporting and entertainment event tickets are generally sold through an official and authorized dealer (e.g., Ticketmaster and their ilk), but the high demand for choice events plus a huge market for scalped tickets can make it nearly impossible to get some tickets through these channels. And when events sell-out, scammers get to work, luring in desperate fans to their bogus ticket websites. These sites are set up with the sole purpose of selling non-existent tickets or tickets priced (scalped) at well above face value. The SiteJabber community has flagged several sites for abuses such as failure to deliver tickets on the day of the event, hidden “fees”, charging for front row seats and delivering nose-bleed seats and non-delivery of tickets by mail, just to name a few.
An illustrative story comes from SiteJabber member Cbizzle B. reviewing AnyTickets.com: “I bought 4 front row bullpen tickets on the phone for an Astros/Marlins game that were marked up 66% above face. I was still looking forward to the game as my 7 yr old son and his friend of his were excited about getting to the game early and getting some autographs from the Astros bullpen. We picked up the hard tickets from will call and went to enter the game 35 minutes prior to the start. The tickets would not scan and we were told to go to the ticket resolution booth. It took 30 minutes at the booth to find out that ANYTICKETS.COM had already sold the electronic version of these tickets to someone else and that our barcodes were no longer valid. We ended up having to buy $53 club seat tickets just to get our kids in the game – which by then had started. And of course, we were no where near a row where they could get any autographs. The ticket resolution agent at minutemaid was very nice but said that this happens all the time with Anytickets.com…”
√ Our advice: As singer Robbie Williams warned the public last year, don’t buy from unauthorized dealers online. When you do, you run a high risk of receiving fake tickets, if any at all. If you’re unsure about a site, you can try calling the event’s producers to ask whether the site is authorized to sell the tickets. You should also check on SiteJabber for reviews of the website to ensure its credibility.
Scammy Scalpers on Craigslist or eBay
Scammers who lack the wherewithal to develop their own websites will perpetrate their scams on Craigslist or eBay. They often masquerade as the people you think you’re lucky to find – the couple who can’t make the sporting event or show because they’ve suddenly been confronted with a family emergency, or the guy who ended up with extra tickets because his friends backed out on him. While some of these ticket sellers are certainly real, some of them are certainly scammers. Recently, a man in Lakeland, Florida reportedly pocketed about $92,000 from unsuspecting people who were expecting to receive VIP concert tickets from him but never did (he never had any to begin with). Plenty of similar stories like that one are being told around the globe. In Australia, fake Justin Bieber tickets were being sold to “Beliebers” in amounts upward of $700 through eBay. In Toronto a man, using the “my wife and I can’t make the show so we’re selling these tickets” tale, sold thousands of dollars’ worth of fake tickets through Craigslist. Authorities surmised his each of his 20 or more victims to have lost between $50 and $1200.
√ Our advice: While their stories may sound legitimate, you want to take the necessary measures to ensure that the tickets will be the real deal. Fraudguides.com provides a list of tips to use when validating tickets. Their suggestions include asking for the seller’s invoice and account number in order to validate it with a ticket representative, meeting the seller in person, paying with a cashier’s check or through PayPal for protection (though PayPal protection is somewhat limited), asking for a written receipt or contract, paying only half of the amount upfront and the other half when you receive the tickets, among others. Keep in mind that many people who sell on Craigslist and eBay are indeed honest people, but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution before you dish out several hundred bucks. If you want to try buying from an individual versus a business, SiteJabber users have had reasonable experiences with StubHub, a ticket buying and selling website which offers protection against fraudulent sales.
Phony Olympics Tickets
A big ticket scam target this year is the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Although applications for admission are officially closed, scammers have set up bogus websites in order to phish for financial details. These sites send emails to applicants asking for additional information in order to get to the next step or to secure the tickets. The Metro reports that over 1500 malicious sites have been set up for this purpose – and with the London 2012 committee’s announcement that they would be contacting applicants between May and June 10, 2011 to take payments, that means there are still a couple more weeks of potential scamming. If you’ve given out private, financial details, make sure to check your accounts regularly. And if you have any doubts about who is contacting you for your details, check with the London 2012 website first.
Final Words of Advice
The thrill of experiencing a big sporting event or concert first-hand is undeniable. Unfortunately, so is the risk of fraud. Buying tickets from the wrong person or website can quickly turn the excitement for the big event into the melancholy of disappointment. Don’t let ticket scammers turn you into an “unBelieber”. As you do research on your interests, put the same efforts into researching the validity of a website or seller.
If you find yourself on the other side of the stadium, having been scammed, do report it to the authorities: your state Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, and the FBI’s Internet Complaint Unit. Those small dollar amounts can add up to thousands of dollars and many more people scammed. Finally, you can help out as well by writing a review of your positive or negative experiences with ticket sellers and passing the advice along to your friends.
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