Police target fake London 2012 ticket websites

image captionLondon 2012 tickets go on sale on 15 March 2011

Fake websites purporting to sell London 2012 tickets are being targeted by a specialist police unit.

Operation Podium has been set up to combat fraud and organised crime around the Olympic Games.

The team is running 16 current operations and has made 37 arrests in the six months since it was set up.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Downing said his top priority was to combat ticket fraud, especially bogus websites.

He said: "Someone may travel from a distant part of the UK, coming to London thinking that they have tickets for the 100m final for which they have paid thousands of pounds, only to find they have no accommodation, no ticket and no experience of a lifetime.

"I don't want London to be associated with that."

Police will be on the lookout for fraudulent and touting websites when the 6.6 million tickets available to the public for the Olympic and Paralympic Games go on sale on 15 March this year.

Touts' list

Mr Downing said officers had learned lessons by monitoring the chaos around the release of Take That tickets last October.

Prior to the band's tickets going on sale, five or six unlicensed websites were operating, he said, but this jumped to "hundreds" the day the tickets were released.

The situation was exacerbated by authorised sellers' sites crashing, leaving desperate fans more vulnerable to handing over their card details to touts and fraudsters.

London 2012 organisers hope to avoid a similar buying frenzy by making the application process open for six weeks, after which the tickets will be allocated by ballot.

Police are working with the organising committee to develop a legitimate way for people to resell and swap tickets without resorting to touts.

Unlike other sporting events and concerts, unlicensed reselling of Olympic tickets is illegal under Section 31 of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 , meaning officers can arrest touts.

However, Mr Downing said the 36-strong Operation Podium team was already compiling a list of known ticket touts across the UK and would use a range of legal tools including ASBOs and seizing assets to "create a hostile environment" in which they would not wish to operate.

Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, the National Olympic Security Co-ordinator, said there were no guarantees that London 2012 would be a tout-free zone but "we will put the fear on them using every possible legislation that we can".

The 37 arrests made so far are for various offences including fraud involving business contracts.

Operation Podium is also working to combat scams involving non-existent hotel rooms and companies being duped into buying luxury goods which never turn up.

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