It’s summer – concert season – and your favorite band of all time is out on the road, their first time on the road in a decade. You search the web for a good deal on tickets and land on a site that’s got just the seats you want for a price that seems more than fair.
Then, you luck upon seats you like better, so you call the phone number where you got the tickets and ask to change your seats.
“No problem. We’ll just need to get a $300 refundable processing fee to get everything done properly,” the ticket rep says. Hmm…
This was a real life situation that happened to a ConsumerAffairs reviewer -- Christine, of Denham Springs, La., who was somehow lured to a rogue ticket scammer impersonating someone from Ticketmaster. But the scoundrel didn’t want her to pay with a credit card. No, he wanted gift cards, a dead giveaway that a scam was underway.
Ticket scams and fake tickets are an everyday occurrence and getting worse. A new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund – Fake tickets, real heartbreak: Tips for fans to spot scams – demonstrates the heartbreak that eager concertgoers are winding up with when they buy tickets through secondary ticketsellers and online forums such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
“Desperate music and sports fans can fall for scams involving tickets because they want to go so much that they make bad decisions they wouldn’t normally make,” said Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog at U.S.PIRG Education Fund.
The three types of ticket scams
Murray said PIRG researchers see three primary types of scams:
- Counterfeit paper or electronic tickets
- Scammers who have legitimate tickets and then sell the same tickets to multiple buyers
- Con artists who build out counterfeit websites that mimic known companies such as StubHub, VividSeats, or Ticketmaster, then advertise tickets supposedly for sale on those sites. But they really don't want your money -- they'd much prefer to get your credit card or debit card information so they can be on their merry way ringing up charges in your good name. As an example of how a scammer could create a lookalike website is by buying the domain name TlCKETMASTER.COM (Did you notice that URL contains a lower-case L and not an I?)
Tips to prevent being ripped off
Rule #1: Keep your tickets to yourself.
Murray says that music fans who snag tickets for concerts, big sports matches, or other events should never post photos of their tickets online to show the world their fortune because cyber thieves could steal the barcodes on those tickets or the info necessary to go to the event themselves or create counterfeit tickets. If you need proof, the FBI has a couple of stories to share, too.
Rule #2: No Zelle, no Venmo, etc.
Unless you know the person you’re sending money to, never pay for tickets with a person-to-person service such as Zelle, Venmo, PayPal, CashApp, etc. Don’t do wire transfers either. If someone is trying to scam you, you’ll never get your money back if you use one of these services.
Rule #3: Use a credit card, not a debit card when buying tickets.
“You have far greater protections with a credit card under the Fair Credit Billing Act if you do buy counterfeit tickets or your payment information is used fraudulently,” Murray said. “It won’t help you get to the concert or game but at least you should get your money back. And you never want to use a debit card anyway, because it exposes your bank account.”
Rule #4: Research the seller.
If a ticket disaster master has a name for their so-called company, search for negative reviews about the company online. Do a search for the name of the seller or email address or phone number and the word “scam” “fraud” or “counterfeit.” Also, make sure the site is a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB).
And if you don’t find any negative reviews, ask the rep where the company is located and go to that state’s Secretary of State website and look the company up to see if it’s for real or not.
Should you use ticket resellers instead? You could, but ConsumerAffairs reviewers haven’t shown much mercy for these companies when it comes to customer service or business practices – everything from “misleading 100% buyer guarantees,” tickets that never arrived, and ticket prices that somehow “magically increased.”
A complete rundown of ticket sellers put together by the ConsumerAffairs research team is available here.