When you hear the word ticket scalper, you may still think of a guy on the sidewalk outside your favorite venue, trying to sell a few tickets before the start of an event. But the truth is that with the increasing prevalence of online ticket sales, ticket scalping has changed dramatically – and fans must be vigilant to protect themselves from scalpers’ deceptive tactics.

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How to protect yourself from ticket scalpers:

Improve your chances at the onsale.

The best way to avoid ticket scalpers is by getting tickets when they go onsale. Here are a couple of ways you can maximize your success:

  • Take advantage of fan club perks. Primary market ticket onsales have evolved from a single event on a specific day and time to often multiple points at which tickets can be purchased. These may include presales or giveaways for fan clubs, venues, credit card holders, radio stations and sponsors. Joining the fan clubs of your favorite teams and artists, and the mailing lists of your favorite venues, will help keep you in the know about upcoming events are coming to town – and give you a good chance at securing a ticket.
  • Be on time. High demand shows sell out FAST, often times in less than a couple of minutes. So make sure you know when the onsales (or presales) are, and be ready to get online right when tickets go on sale. Set up your profile on your favorite ticketing sites in advance, with your contact and payment information, so that you can breeze through the ticketing process and avoid any problems with the time limits if you get called away from your computer.
  • Ask a friend for help. Opening multiple browser windows makes it harder to search for tickets. So if you want another set of hands working the keyboard, it may help to ge the friends who are attending the show with you to shop the onsale from their computers, too.
  • Consider paperless tickets or will-call-only tickets. Paperless and will-call-only tickets are linked to the credit card or photo ID of the individual who purchased them – so it is hard for scalpers to buy these seats with the sole purpose of reselling them. A number of artists like Bruce Springsteen, Kid Rock, Justin Bieber and Eric Church are using paperless tickets for a portion of their shows to help fans have a better shot at getting tickets during the onsale. These tickets are not intended to be transferred (that’s what keeps the scalpers away), so make sure you read about the terms and conditions, and call the box office if you have any questions. Paperless and will-call-only tickets aren’t used for all seats or at all shows, but when they are available they are a proven method to reduce scalping.

Take care when shopping on the secondary market.

Everybody knows that there’s a place for resale when it comes to event tickets – but fans must be vigilant to ensure that they’re not taken advantage of by scalpers.

  • Check the primary market first. The primary market is the safest place to purchase your tickets. 40% of tickets go unsold every year – so don’t assume the event you want to attend is sold out.
  • Watch out for unauthorized websites. Scalpers use website designs, URL’s and search engine advertising to appear to be affiliated with a legitimate artist, team or venue – when they are not. Don’t assume that the websites that come up when you search for tickets are legitimate. If you’re ever unsure, call the box office directly and ask for their website URL and the name of their authorized ticketing agent.
  • Purchase tickets from a reputable seller. Most major ticket resellers will guarantee a refund if there is a problem with your tickets. Unfortunately, this isn’t the same as guaranteeing that the tickets are authentic. If you have a problem when you arrive at the show, you may get your money back, but you won’t be let into the venue to see the event.
  • Keep the original ticket prices in mind. Many ticket resellers do not disclose the original price of the ticket. So paying $70 for a seat might not seem so bad until you receive the tickets and realized the face value was $25. If you’re not sure what the original ticket prices are, call the box office or check with the primary ticketer.

Fight back against pro-scalper legislation.

Some ticket resellers are pushing for legislation that would ban fan- friendly ticketing methods and force artists, teams and venues to disclose information that would help scalpers drive up prices on the secondary market. If you hear about legislation like this in your state, contact your legislator and urge them to stand up for fans, not scalpers.