New Ticket Scam Threats to Olympics and Concerts

Ticket scam artists plan to strike major events of 2011 and 2012: Internet Scambusters #421

Every new year delivers a calendar of major events that create a mouthwatering target for ticket scam artists.

In March, tickets for the 2012 London Olympics go on sale and if the fiasco that hit the 2008 Beijing Games is anything to go by, thousands of people stand to lose millions of dollars to crooks selling forged or non-existent tickets.

In this week’s issue, we explain the safe way to get your Olympics tickets — as well as those for other major sports and entertainment events.

Let’s get started…

New Ticket Scam Threats to Olympics and Concerts

By some estimates, one in every 12 people booking seats online for concerts and major sporting events has fallen for a ticket scam.

And with seats for the 2012 Olympic Games in London going on sale in March 2011, organizers could face another spate of ticket scams similar to those that hit the 2008 Beijing Games, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the 2010 Soccer World Cup, costing many thousands of sports fans millions of dollars.

Similarly, a number of major blockbuster concert tours lined up for 2011 will likely draw in the ticket scam artists, especially for events that are nearly or already sold out.

Furthermore, in the ticket scam world, there’s a whole gray area where genuine tickets sell for outrageous prices or with conditions, like long-distance collection or last-minute delivery, which make them almost worthless.

We previously alerted readers to some of the risks in earlier Scambusters issues, with some useful tips, worth checking out, on how to avoid them.

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This issue, we highlight the main ticket scams to beware of in 2011.

2012 Olympics Ticket Scam

If anyone offers to sell you a ticket for one of the 2012 London Olympic events before March of this year, it’s a scam — because the seats don’t go on sale before then.

And once they do become available, a whole stack of websites will appear with official Olympics-sounding names offering them for sale.

Most of them, if not all, will be phony and if you choose to buy from them, you won’t get tickets and you will risk having your credit card details stolen and used for identity theft.

The games start July 27 and, as always, the only reliable source of tickets — 8 million of them — will be either the official websites of Olympics organizations or their appointed agents.

Most of the 649 events, especially the opening ceremony, will sell out and some may even be issued via a lottery process — both situations that are likely to increase the risk of a ticket scam.

In the UK, the safe starting point for ticket buyers is the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games host website. But tickets from this site are only available to UK and European residents, who will get up to 75% of available tickets.

This adds to the likelihood of ticket scams in North America, which will only get a tiny fraction of the remainder.

Scammers will be out in force, as they were in Australia and New Zealand, which found them in a similar situation for the Beijing games.

In the US, the first place to visit is the Team USA site, the official site of the US National Olympics Committee.

At the time of this writing, details of ticket allocation and availability or names of accredited agencies in the US were not available but unless and until they are, our advice is not to seek tickets elsewhere.

Bookmark the Team USA site and visit regularly for ticketing details.

Once the USA Committee names its accredited agents, they are the only ones to buy from if you want to be certain of avoiding scams.

Once sales do start, the “secondary market” — reselling previously purchased tickets — will swing into action and you’ll likely see online auction and classified websites offering tickets.

If they genuinely have tickets for sale, they may be perfectly legal but you’ll probably pay up to three times the face value of tickets.

Then, again, they may not be genuine, so avoid dealing with anyone who does not provide a verifiable address, a legitimate landline phone number or who asks you to wire money for your payment.

Concert Ticket Scam Targets

The list of top stars touring North America in 2011 includes country singers Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift, plus some big names from the past including Bon Jovi, James Taylor and Ozzy Osbourne, and top pop performers like Lady Gaga.

You can be sure that most, if not all, concert dates for these performers will sell out well in advance. And if the recent experience of fans of the reunited “boy band” Take That (including Robbie Williams) is anything to go by, the concert ticket scam artists will be out in force.

Pretty well all of Take That’s concerts in May and June sold out as soon as tickets went on sale and superstar Williams shows his concern with a warning about scams on his personal website.

He suggests fans should authenticate ticket agents before using them; his site actually lists “trusted agents.”

Tickets for Lady Gaga concerts were recently offered on Craigslist by a crook who repeatedly “sold” the same item. They were genuine tickets, which would have been confirmed if a buyer called the concert venue, but were each sold several times over.

Check out our earlier guidance on buying items from Craigslist, New Craigslist Scam Uses “Check This Video” Trick.

We offer the same advice as for the Olympics above, especially regarding secondary market sales. But always be aware that, even if you check things out like we suggest, you’re still at risk if you don’t buy from an authorized agent.

And, as with the Olympics, beware of sites offering show tickets before they even go on sale. Before the tragic death of Michael Jackson, more than a dozen scam sites were offering tickets for his comeback concerts before they were ever released.

Much of what we say above also applies to major sporting events, especially final games in all leading sports and horse racing.

High Tech Aids the Ticket Scam Artist

How do brokers and “scalpers” (unofficial resellers) get their tickets?

Well, many of them just advertise for individual tickets or buy them when they go on sale, reselling them at a significant mark-up.

The picture becomes murkier when unscrupulous ticket brokers use software to buy thousands of peak event tickets as soon as they go on sale.

In March 2010, four men were indicted for an alleged $25 million scheme that used software to illegally buy huge volumes of tickets for concerts by artists like Bruce Springsteen, as well as for Broadway shows and baseball games.

The tickets existed but were offered at a huge premium that went straight into the pockets of the scammers, depriving many fans of the opportunity to buy at fair prices.

Other legitimate but shady dealers offer ticket “guarantees” but buyers later find out they have to pay hidden charges for delivery or even have to travel to collect them.

On occasions, they arrive after the event, but the dealers refuse to issue refunds. Of course, in these cases, it’s perfectly possible the tickets were previously used.

In our recently published Top 10 scams list, we predicted that bogus ticket sales for the Olympics would be among the cons that would keep travel scams firmly in our charts during 2011.

It’s so important that you don’t let your enthusiasm for a particular individual, band or team weaken your otherwise sound judgment and lure you into a buying decision you wouldn’t normally make. Instead of cheering from the balcony, you might just be sitting in the fast lane to a ticket scam.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!