The Fraud Examiner

Make a Game Plan: How to Avoid Ticket Fraud

The NFL Super Bowl is just around the corner, and if you are hoping to score tickets to the big game, I hope you’ve been saving your pennies. A quick scan of online resellers shows a single ticket ranging from $4,700 to more than $15,000. If you have not saved, you can join the countless other people who are hoping to score the deal of the year. Craigslist, onsite scalpers, your cousin’s friend’s boyfriend — there are plenty of options to buy discount and resale tickets.However, fraud is a serious concern in such transactions and buyers should be aware of the risks. It’s not just sporting events that fraudsters target, either. Any event that requires a ticket for admission — a concert, festival or presidential inauguration, for example — is ripe for a ticketing scam.

People selling discounted event tickets might have the real thing, or they might be offering counterfeit or stolen tickets. In cases where the tickets are legitimate, the seller might have bought too many or unexpectedly be unable to attend the event, among other possibilities. Usually this type of resale is legal, if done according to the fine print on the ticket. Sellers with stolen or counterfeit tickets, conversely, are breaking the law and buyers should avoid them. Such sellers might have directly stolen event tickets from unsuspecting buyers or created a facsimile on their home computer that they hope passes for the real deal. Stolen tickets, because they are legitimate event tickets, look completely convincing, but if the victim reported them stolen, the new purchaser is in for an unpleasant surprise when they arrive at the event. Counterfeit tickets can run the gamut from identical-looking reproductions to lazy fakes that look nothing like real tickets.

Game Plans

There are two primary tactics for purchasing tickets to a sold-out event or at a discounted price: online and in person. Online options include internet classified ads, ticket resellers and social media. Shoppers search online for tickets to an event, often by simply asking in a Facebook status update if anyone has an extra ticket. Purchasers of online tickets might receive a genuine ticket, or a fraudulent or stolen one.

People who engage in this type of purchasing face risks, including:

  • The ticket is never delivered: The buyer finds a good deal online, pays the seller for the ticket in advance and is promised the ticket will be mailed, but it never arrives.
  • The ticket is overpriced: The online seller has legitimate tickets, but they cost more than the original tickets or more than the official reseller is offering them for. If buyers do not comparison shop, they run the risk of paying too much.
  • The person who was supposed to meet them with the ticket never shows up: The buyers find a good deal online, pay the seller for the ticket and arrange a time to meet to pick up the ticket. The seller never shows up (or the ticket is not at will-call as promised).
  • The buyer receives a ticket but it is counterfeit: The seller does show up for the rendezvous and gives the buyer a ticket, but at the event, the buyer is denied entrance by security because the ticket is a fake.
  • The buyer receives a ticket but it is stolen: Again, the seller does actually show up for the rendezvous and gives the buyer a ticket, but at the event the buyer is denied entrance by security because the ticket is stolen. This scenario carries that added risk that security detains the buyer for possessing a stolen ticket or alerts police.
  • Individuals buy real tickets to a fake event that sounds like an actual event: Although less common than other schemes, this scenario is still possible. A dedicated fraudster can create a website that mimics one for a real event. The “designer” alters a few details (location, date, name, etc.) to differentiate it from the legitimate event. Purchasers buy tickets and show up, only to discover there is no event on that date or at that location.

In-person purchases can range from finding a seller online, but not exchanging money or goods in advance, to approaching a scalper at the event. People who try this method face the following risks, among others:

  • Buyers receive fake tickets: The buyers and sellers exchange money and tickets, but when the buyers attempt to enter the event, they are turned away because the ticket is a counterfeit.
  • Buyers receive stolen tickets: Buyers and sellers exchange money and tickets, but when the buyers attempt to enter the event, they are turned away because the tickets are stolen. The buyer in this scenario might also face criminal consequences.
  • Buyers are assaulted and robbed: Unfortunately, this is a very real danger when buyers arrange to meet sellers in person. Sometimes the seller has no intention of exchanging any goods with the buyer and might even assault him or her for their money.
  • The ticket is overpriced: Buyers often approach scalpers at events expecting to haggle, but even if they can talk the seller down in price, they might end up paying significantly more than the ticket is worth. The seller knows buyers in these situations do not have other options and take advantage of them.

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