With so many tickets on sale in the Austin area for various events it can be difficult to spot the scams. Erin Dufner with the BBB has some advice.
Whoever said public policy doesn’t sell hasn’t tried to scrounge up VIP tickets to the Lake Tahoe Environmental Summit.
Sales of VIP tickets to the “yearly gathering of federal, state, and local leaders dedicated to the goal of restoring and sustaining Lake Tahoe,” were halted this week over concerns that scalpers were buying up the inventory with an eye for a markup and resale.
“We became aware that some tickets are being resold for profit and we are suspending VIP ticket sales until we can identify a way to protect the integrity of this event,” stated an email from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the summit host. General admission tickets are still available online.
Go to any major sporting or entertainment event and one of the first people you will encounter is an entrepreneur seeking to mine profit from the secondary market for tickets — a scalper asking if you have extra tickets or want to buy one.
At that level the practice mostly is harmless or even beneficial to consumers — providing them with a ticket they otherwise might not be able to get, at a price they are willing to pay.
Technology, however, changes the equation. Due to the ability of scalpers to use the internet to buy huge numbers of tickets as they are issued, the secondary market for many events has eclipsed the primary market.
Secondary market price explosion
For example, The New York Times recently studied ticket sales for the Broadway hit, “Hamilton,” as several of its top stars announced that they would leave the show. The average face value of a “Hamilton” ticket was $189 at the time of lead actor Lin-Manuel Miranda’s announced departure; the average price on the secondary market was $850. When Miranda announced his departure, the price of a ticket on the secondary market soared as high as $10,900. That, in turn, perverted the primary market. Producers raised prices to try to recapture some of the profit from scalpers.
“Hamilton” producers have worked to prevent mass purchases by scalpers, but many of them responded by operating multiple ticket-purchasing “bots” that bought a few tickets through each of hundreds of servers.
New York lawmakers are considering ways to deter the practice, but reform should be universal. Congress should outlaw ticket “bots,” require secondary sellers to report sales just as primary sellers do, and establish penalties for, in effect, stealing many Americans’ fair-market access to sports and entertainment.
CHICAGO — Erick Osorio covered all his bases when he bought a Lollapalooza four-day pass from a scalper on Facebook.
He asked for references for his would-be supplier. He used Paypal so that he’d be able to track his purchase and, if necessary, file a fraud claim. He scoured the man’s profile and friends for anything shady.
He still got scammed.
Osorio, a military police officer who doubles as a professional photographer for music festivals, made his payment last month, expecting to be mailed the pass within days. Weeks later, the dealer flew off the radar.
“Some guys had vouched for him, but…those must have been his friends who were covering for him,” Osorio said. “After this happened I got 13 different messages from different people saying he’d done the same thing to them.”
Stories like Osorio’s abound, and they unfold in new and diverse ways every summer. As a regular festival-goer, Osorio said he’s seen scammers grow more sophisticated over time.
Steve Buzil, who’s worked as a licensed ticket broker since 1987, agreed, saying he’s seen the counterfeit industry balloon into an slick criminal enterprise since he got started.
“The printing technology has gotten to the point where you can’t even tell the difference between a fake ticket and a real one,” Buzil said. “And with a general admission concert, where you’re buying a patch of grass instead of a seat, they’re that much harder to track.”
Between their combined years of dealing with counterfeiters and festivals, Buzil and Osorio offered up a crash course on how to avoid being duped by an unofficial ticket vendor.
If you’re going to buy online, stick with a ticket broker site, not social media.
This is the lesson Osorio learned the hard way. Vendor community sites likeStubhub aren’t ironclad, he said, but they’re much more reliable than trying to find a cheap deal on Facebook or Craigslist.
Otherwise, “It’s pretty much going to be the luck of the draw, no matter what,” Osorio said.
Some sites, like Buzil’s Sitclose.com, boast reliable track records for vetting vendors who use them. On Stubhub, anyone who’s caught selling a fake can be “flagged” or banned.
“Even Stubhub doesn’t know for 100 percent certain who’s putting stuff on their system, but at least they give you a money-back guarantee if it goes wrong,” Buzil added.
Ask for references or recommendations before committing to a scalper.
Osorio got burned using social media this time, but he’d made plenty of successful purchases after reaching out through Facebook in the past, he said. But before each time, he conducted what he called a “legit check.”
“If you’re getting [the ticket] through a Facebook group, basically just post in that group asking if the guy is legit,” Osorio said. “There’s a lot you can see on Facebook that gives a sense of whether the guy looks trustworthy or normal.”
While clearly not fool-proof, any personal reference will make a serious difference.
Never make a cash hand-off.
If something goes wrong with a purchase, there’s no way of following up unless the buyer has some record of the transaction.
“The question you have to ask yourself every time is, ‘Do I have any recourse?'” Buzil said. “If you meet a guy somewhere and hand him a wad of cash, you have no recourse. You have no way to get your money back.”
Since Osorio made his purchase through Paypal, he said, he was able to file a claim to get his money back.
If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Before sticking with any one vendor, do a scan to see how their prices compare with others who are hawking the same product.
“If market value for a ticket is $250, and someone’s selling it for $100, then something is wrong,” Buzil said. “There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.”
If you’re using an online payment service like Paypal, don’t list your transaction as a “gift.”
Some people try to avoid taxes and fees online by categorizing their purchase as a gift, Osorio said. But if the buyer doesn’t get working tickets in exchange, they have no legal grounds for complaint.
“It’s tempting, but it’s really just an idiotic move,” Orosio said of the tactic.
If you’re buying a four-day pass, make sure it still has the cellophane wrapper.
Lollapalooza four-day passes are issued with a thin plastic wrapping. If someone is selling a naked ticket, it could be a sign something’s up.
Insist that the scalper walk into the festival with you.
Some vendors would likely see it as an unnecessary burden, but it may not be an outrageous request, especially if you’re buying an extra ticket from someone who still plans on going, Orosio said.
“Last year, I literally told the guy ‘I want you to walk in line with me and stand there while I scan it,'” Orosio said. “That’s the only way you get a guarantee.”
A man who tried to sell fake tickets to the January playoff game between the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail.
Mario Riep is a Bengals season-ticket holder. The 36-year-old West Chester man has two seats at Paul Brown Stadium, he told Judge Jody Luebbers at the hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
In early January, he advertised two fake tickets on Craigslist for $500 – for the Jan. 9 Wild Card game that the Bengals lost after imploding in the closing minutes.
A man who saw the notice on the online classified website contacted Cincinnati police, and undercover officers set up a sting operation, which led them to Riep. The word “stadium” was spelled incorrectly on the tickets, according to Luebbers.
Police searched Riep’s vehicle and found numerous other tickets “that were photoshopped along these lines,” Luebbers said in court.
“I just wonder,” Luebbers told him, “how many times you’ve actually done it and not been caught.”
Luebbers also sentenced Riep, who pleaded guilty last month to a forgery charge, to three years of probation and 400 hours of community service. She ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine.
“You’re a con-man. You’re a con-artist,” she said.
Luebbers also said Riep has a long history of “preying on the vulnerable” – including a blind man in 2002 who ran the Hamilton County Courthouse deli. In that case, Riep twice paid the man a $1 bill but asked for — and got — change for a $20 bill.
He pleaded guilty to theft from a disabled adult and was sentenced to nine months in prison. In court Thursday, Riep said he was “just making a joke with the blind guy” and was “young and dumb, at the time.”
Luebbers responded: “Now, sir, here you’re preying on emotional, excited, elated Bengals fans who want to go to an exciting game – and tickets are so hard to find… Again you’re preying on the vulnerable.”
Riep, who said he works as a petroleum inspector on barges and at refineries along the Ohio River, said his intention was to “try to help someone get playoff tickets.”
“I’m not a predator.” he said, his voice breaking.
IOWA CITY (AP) — An Iowa woman accused of duping dozens of people into buying non-existent tickets to the Super Bowl and other high-profile events has been charged with fraud in what investigators say was a years-long Ponzi scheme that improperly netted her at least $531,000.
Ranae Van Roekel of Boyden, Iowa, was charged in federal court Monday with mail and tax fraud, four years after the scheme became public.
Prosecutors say the 48-year-old was a self-employed ticket broker who ran the business “Get ‘em Now Tickets” from January 2008 to June 2012 and told a good story to personal contacts she duped. They say she falsely claimed to have personal relationships and ties to events that gave her an inside track for deeply discounted tickets, hotel rooms and VIP passes — once saying she was on the planning committee for the 2012 Super Bowl.
Van Roekel targeted acquaintances she had met through her family’s involvement in youth football activities, investigators say.
After customers would pay thousands of dollars for tickets in advance, Van Roekel later informed them that she couldn’t fill most of the orders. To avoid detection, she issued some victims refunds using money that came in from new ticket orders. But by 2012, many were out thousands of dollars and angry with themselves for trusting her, according to lawyers who represented them.
“She definitely was taking advantage of relationships that she had with people, using that to her advantage to be able to sell them,” said attorney Corey Lorenzen, who represented about a dozen of them. “She had put together a pretty elaborate story.”
People expect to find amazing deals on eBay, but that just makes it harder for them to spot the deals that are “too good to be true.” That’s why eBay is also an ideal platform for scammers.
Here are three eBay scams taking place across the country. Read on so you don’t become a victim.
1. No product, no refund
Fox 17 in West Michigan recently shared the story of Bob Masters, who was searching for unique tools when he stumbled across the perfect listing from an eBay seller.
A few things were suspicious, but nothing was implausible. The posting said the parts, which were listed well below market value, were in China and would need to be shipped overseas. Masters felt he was getting a good deal and purchased the tools.
When they didn’t arrive, Masters assumed they had been lost in shipping. He reached out to the seller, who offered to send him a replacement.
When that shipment didn’t arrive, either, Masters reached out again to the seller, who told him he had been issued a refund and should confirm that the payment had arrived in his PayPal account. But the payment wasn’t there.
The back-and-forth between Masters and the seller played out for months, and by the time Masters realized he wasn’t getting his tools or his money back, it was too late for eBay to get involved.
eBay offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, but that didn’t help Masters. PayPal recently extended its time limit, allowing users up to six months to dispute a charge on their account. But the scam works because the deadlines may have passed before you realize it’s happening. In the end, there was nothing Masters could do to reclaim his money.
2. Nigerian shoppers
Channel 2 News in Charleston, S.C., reported the story of Deonte Ray, who was trying to sell his cellphone on eBay and believed he’d found a buyer in Nigeria. He sent his girlfriend, Rashaundra Miller, to the post office to mail the phone. When a postal worker named Debbie Poole saw the package was being sent to Nigeria, she began asking very pointed questions and warned Miller that it was likely a scam.
Miller thought Poole was being overly cautious, so she called Ray and asked him to verify that the payment had been made. Ray checked his PayPal account and saw that the funds were “pending.”
But Poole pointed out that “pending” and “received” are very different things, so Ray reached out to PayPal, which confirmed that no recent activity had taken place on his account.
Luckily, this scam was stopped. Had the package been shipped, Ray and Miller would have been out the cost of the phone, which was around $500.
You may not always have someone like Poole to tip you off to a scam, so stay on your toes and avoid transactions with buyers or sellers who live out of the country.
You might remember Danielle Posner’s story from my article about the major scams to look out for on Craigslist. (Visit komando.com/359546, if you missed it.) But Craigslist isn’t the only place where scalpers take advantage of unsuspecting buyers.
Outlandishly high ticket prices and fraudulent ticket sales have become such a concern in New York that the state attorney general has sent letters to eBay asking the company to help get the issue under control. EBay is viewed as essential in this effort, since it also owns the popular online ticket marketplace StubHub.
Often, ticket brokers buy thousands of tickets to an event, and then resell them at higher prices. The process is fairly automated — a computer uses thousands of credit card numbers to work around purchasing caps made by the ticketing software — which means regular buyers may not even have a chance to purchase the tickets at their normal prices.
Tickets sold on eBay may also be fraudulent. If a listing does not include a picture of the tickets, eBay recommends that you ask for one, especially for tickets above $300. You should also never wire money to the seller for payment.
So, be careful if you’re looking for tickets to an upcoming event. If it seems you’re paying more than you should be, or something about the seller seems off, it could be a scam. Avoid this by purchasing your tickets from the venue directly.
Bonus tip: If you use eBay at all, I have a tip you definitely don’t want to miss! There are specific words to use when searching eBay that will give you the best results. Plus, if you see a certain product listed, you should always pay attention to the listing. Visit komando.com/274862 for three secrets that eBay pros use to get the best deals.
SAN DIEGO – This week San Diego will play host to Major League Baseball’s All-Star activities and experts warn consumers should watch out for people looking to make a quick buck selling counterfeit tickets.
According to the Better Business Bureau, one issue common with big sporting events, like the MLB All-Star Game, is fans unknowingly purchase counterfeit tickets.
Most ticket mishaps occur as a result of buying tickets from unofficial retailers.
The BBB saying, “The safest option is to purchase tickets from official and well-known retailers.”
There are multiple events happening All-Star weekend where people could try to take advantage of consumers.
Fan Fest will be taking place at the convention center and the MLB All-Star concert series brings A-List headliners to town for concerts.
According to MLB’s concert website tickets were free and not for resale, but Team 10 found some of those concert tickets already for sale online.
Homeland Security Investigations tells Team 10 they will have a presence at San Diego’s events.
“Anytime there’s a major event we conduct operations with the local police department, with major league baseball,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Eric Feldman.
BBB advice for fans still looking for tickets
Be careful buying tickets from someone on the street. This is a common practice but very risky.
Ticket broker or scalper? A ticket broker is a legitimate and accredited reseller, while a ticket scalper is an unregulated and unlicensed seller.
Check the website. Make sure the URL begins with “https://” and has a little lock icon, which signifies that the website is secured.
Look up the seats. Ask for the section, row, and seat numbers of the tickets you’d like and compare them with the venue map so you don’t end up with an obstructed view or other surprise.
Refund policy. Make sure you only buy tickets from a seller that provides clear details about the terms of the transaction, including the refund policy.
If you buy tickets through an online auction site, choose a seller with a long history of satisfied customers.
Scammers can hijack old accounts; so make sure the seller has recently sold other tickets.
Buyers should be wary of sellers who try to lure you from a legitimate site to another site for a “private” transaction. Scammers often want to conduct business on sites with names that mimic well-known companies, but are actually fakes.
Stick to credit cards when buying tickets. A purchase made with a credit card is protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act that allows you to briefly hold payments if an issue arises. Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
If you buy from an individual seller, be sure to meet at a public location. Before handing over money, ask to see the seller’s ID to confirm the name they told you matches.
Checkwhere you can find more information about online ticket sellers. Read customer reviews and complaints to help you make the best decision before buying.
How to spot a fake ticket
Check the date on the ticket and make sure it matches the date of the event.
Look for spelling and grammatical errors; these are clear signs of a fake.
Look for authentication of pictures and logos printed on the ticket by checking the alignment and even the color.
Make sure the ticket has a barcode.
If possible, compare your ticket with one bought from an official retailer.
Currently, there are no longer tickets available for the All-Star Game through Major League Baseball. However, you can still find tickets.
According to TicketCity, the average resell ticket price for this year’s game will change day to day, but the current trend shows a 37 percent increase in the average ticket price between 2014 and 2016.
(as of 7/5/16) –
All-Star Game Current Average Sale Price: $698.00
Minimum Price of Current Listed Tickets: $284.99
Maximum Price of Current Listed Tickets: $20000 (Lexus Home Plate Club 4)
Home Run Derby Current Average Sale Price: $350.03
Minimum Price of Current Listed Tickets: $120
Maximum Price of Current Listed Tickets: $5500 (Left Field Lower Box 128)
Full Strip Current Average Sale Price: $925.29
Minimum Price of Current Listed Tickets: $449
Maximum Price of Current Listed Tickets: $20000 (Lexus Home Plate Club 1)
** Full Strip refers to tickets to the All-Star Sunday, Home Run derby, All-Star Game
Adele won’t kick off her U.S. tour until Tuesday in St. Paul, but a lot of the British singer’s Minnesota fans are already heartbroken, even before she sings her first breakup song.
Many have to choose between paying scalpers an average of nearly $300 per ticket or staying home — even after Adele took one of the most aggressive stances yet by an artist to curb ticket resales.
“It turns you off to the whole concert-going experience,” said Claire Kirch of Duluth. She fruitlessly spent a half-hour on Ticketmaster trying to get seats to Adele’s shows Tuesday and Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center the morning they went on sale.
More than ever this summer, Minnesotans are being shut out of the hottest concerts and ripped off by ticket scalpers. It’s part of a nationwide “ticketing epidemic,” as a recent New York attorney general report calls it, fueled by the proliferation of online ticket buying and resale sites such as StubHub.
In Minnesota, where ticket scalping was legalized in 2007, the laws and enforcement around it are weaker than in many states, and there is no government oversight on how concert tickets are distributed in venues owned or funded by taxpayers. Sometimes even the companies that stage sold-out shows are selling seats at inflated prices.
A Star Tribune analysis of 10 recent and upcoming concerts in the Twin Cities found that 10 percent to 20 percent of tickets to the most popular shows typically wind up on resale sites, including an inordinate number of the best seats.
Metallica fans are raging over a sold-out Aug. 20 concert at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the band’s only scheduled gig of 2016. It sold out in 10 minutes and is now the No. 1 selling concert in the nation on StubHub, where thousands of seats are priced 3 to 10 times the original $50-$150.
Within hours after Beyoncé’s May 23 concert at TCF Bank Stadium went on sale, more than 20 percent of the seats were offered on secondary ticket sites at jacked-up prices, about 8,000 of the 37,000 tickets.
Only about 5 percent of Adele’s Xcel Energy Center tickets wound up on StubHub, thanks to a restriction she placed on about 3,000 of the best seats at each show. To gain entry, holders of those tickets must present the credit card used to purchase them. That policy, however, drove up prices for tickets that did make it to StubHub — which averaged $700-$850 (face value: $39-$147) in the hours immediately after the quick sellout, and $500 in recent weeks.
“They really need to find a way to control scalpers,” said Gayle Smith, of Inver Grove Heights, who joined the long lines for Adele tickets and still came up short. “All it does is hurt the fans.”
Actually, fans are doing a lot of the scalping themselves.
“In this day and age, fans aren’t stupid,” said Jay Gabbert, a Minneapolis broker with Metro Tickets. “They know they can buy the two Adele seats they want, and then buy two more they can resell at StubHub for enough money to cover the other two.”
Professional scalping is clearly still a big part of the problem, though. And in the online age, local street-corner brokers such as Gabbert are now small-time operators.
VICTORIA, Texas – Summertime is full of many exciting events: music and food festivals, baseball games and concerts with big-name headliners. Now is the time many people will be looking to buy tickets for local events or upcoming tours that sell out quickly. Whether you’re heading to a concert venue or festival this summer, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin advises consumers to be on alert for fake event tickets.
Many consumers go online to purchase tickets-it’s convenient, and some websites may offer opportunities to purchase tickets before box office sales start. Many sites also offer buyer protections and money-back guarantees. Remember, when purchasing tickets online it is important to know you are working with a trustworthy seller.
There are currently thousands of tickets listed on classifieds sites-however, they offer no guarantees and do not require identification from sellers. Buying tickets in person is not always a sure thing either, as it has become easier for scammers to make fake tickets look real.
In another twist on scamming ticket buyers out of money, scam artists have reportedly promoted food festivals, concerts and similar events on social media sites, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). People buy the tickets, but when they show up to the “event” or venue, they unfortunately discover there is no event and they’ve just been scammed.
BBB offers the following tips for safe ticket purchases:
- Do your research. Do an online search using the name of the festival, event and its promoters, along with key words such as “scam,” “fake” or “fraud” to see if others have been scammed. Check to see if the event has taken place in other towns, too. If you’re looking to purchase tickets through an online broker, check out their BBB Business Review at bbb.org for details about the company, history of complaints and customer reviews. You can also check to see if they are a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, an organization that works with law enforcement agencies, professional sports teams and other organizations to fight against counterfeit tickets.
- Check policies. Research the ticket broker’s refund policy before purchasing. Assess the company’s policy for customer satisfaction and details on reimbursement for cancelled events.
- Verify the tickets are real. Search for guidance online about how the tickets should look and compare them to the ones you want to buy. Also, compare the price of the tickets to the price of others being sold. Scam artists will often list tickets at a very low price to lure victims. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Look for contact information. If purchasing tickets on a ticket website or online classified, make sure the contact information is listed and is correct. Try out the email or phone number, and if those methods don’t work or you don’t get a response within a reasonable time, it may not be a reliable option.
- Watch for hidden fees. Some websites include service charges and additional shipping fees. While these charges should be identified on the website and disclosed to you before the transaction is finalized, read the fine print to make sure you know the total cost that will be billed to your account.
- Pay with a credit card. Always use a credit card as additional protection, and don’t share your credit card number or any other personal information with someone you don’t know.
- Never wire money. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve. Once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse, if any, for getting your money back.
- Never communicate only via email. If the seller doesn’t provide a physical address or phone number as another option to communicate, that’s a red flag. With email, there’s no way to tell where the person is emailing from, or who the person is. Ask questions!