Ticket fraud: Social media sites 'must do more to tackle issue'

Beyonce in Formation World Tour Image copyright AP
Image caption Upcoming Wembley concerts by big stars such as Beyonce are targets for ticket fraudsters

Social media sites must do more to tackle online ticket fraud, after being used for nearly half of all such scams last year, councils have warned.

Sports and music fans have been warned by Trading Standards teams to beware of fake tickets for sale this summer.

Major events, including Euro 2016 and music festivals, are expected to be targeted by fraudsters.

In 2015, £5.2m was lost by customers, police figures suggested - a 55% rise from the previous year.

Online ticket fraud revenue had been £3.35m in 2014, police said.

Targets for ticket fraud this year could also include Wembley concerts by Beyonce, Rihanna, Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen, music festivals such as Glastonbury, and sporting events including Wimbledon, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

'Exploiting desperate fans'

Cllr Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said criminals were faking tickets by using photocopiers, selling the same ticket "over and over again using a barcode which won't work when you get to the venue".

He said trading standards teams in England and Wales were cracking down on online ticket fraud, and called on social media sites to "do more to help prevent people being conned paying for tickets on their sites".

He warned people to be "very wary of ticket offers for 'sold out' events as these situations are exploited by criminals".

"Similarly, if the price seems too good to be true, it's likely to be a scam," he added.

How do you avoid online ticket scams?

  • Avoid purchasing tickets if they do not include the block, row, and seat details. Without these details there is no way to determine if the tickets exist or not
  • Always check with the event organiser for official ticket distribution lists and avoid buying from unauthorised sources, particularly social networks
  • If you are engaging with unofficial sellers, research them thoroughly. If it is a company, check how long they have been registered at Companies House (the longer the better - if they recently registered it could be a scam). Check the seller or company online for unfavourable reviews and beware of false positive reviews
  • Always pay for tickets by credit card and never pay by direct transfer - the card issuer is jointly liable for a failure for goods or services to be provided as long as the price of a single ticket is over £100
  • Only make purchases from sites encrypted for payment - look for the padlock in the address bar

Source: Local Government Association

In a sample of 3,000 reported ticket scams between May and October 2015, victims lost on average £444 per transaction, police found.

More than a quarter of fake tickets sold online in 2015 (26%) were for big sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup and Premier League football matches.

More than a fifth of ticket fraud (21%) was instigated via Facebook, with Gumtree accounting for 22% and Twitter 6%.

Last year, more than 200 concert-goers complained to Action Fraud after tickets purchased for shows including Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and AC/DC from an online ticket website failed to arrive.

'More prevalent'

Jonathan Brown from Star (the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers) told BBC Radio 5 live that people should use credit cards to buy tickets.

"I know it sounds boring, it's tedious and very often people feel like they're up against the clock," he said.

"But... take the time and do a bit of research, and pay with a credit card and protect yourself that way."

Mike Andrews, of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, said criminals selling fake tickets online were becoming "more and more prevalent", and urged fans to be on guard.

People should report suspected cases to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06, he said.

Gumtree said it did not allow the sale of football tickets.

A spokesman said: "For other ticket categories, Gumtree complies with all UK laws on the resale of tickets, and includes safety advice prompts when you visit the tickets category, as well as preventative advice messaging on every advert.

"We also advise our users to always independently check the resale terms of the ticket issuer before buying, and encourage users to report ads they suspect are fraudulent."

Twitter said it prohibited the sale or promotion of counterfeit items on the site, and that it suspends accounts that violate its rules on such goods.

Facebook has been contacted for comment.

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