LONDON (LIVE UK) — A huge fraud involving fake tickets sold through so-called ticket marketplaces has been uncovered.
More than 2,000 counterfeit e-tickets have already turned up and been confiscated from shocked concert-goers, with the overall scam thought to have netted the perpetrator more than £1 million.
Among venues affected are The O2 (cap. 17,000) in London and Birmingham’s LG Arena (15,000), for shows featuring artists such as Beyoncé, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Depeche Mode and Bruno Mars. More than 90 people had their tickets seized and were turned away from Neil Young’s concert at The O2.
All of the fraudulent tickets are believed to have been bought in good faith by customers via resale websites such as Viagogo, Seatwave, Ticketmaster’s Get Me In! and eBay-owned StubHub.
It is suspected that the counterfeit tickets emanated from a single source using multiple identities, who earned himself – perhaps with associates – favoured seller (also called power seller) status with the websites, after trading normally for several months.
Despite assuring buyers that they only pay sellers after the event, some websites encourage power sellers to make more trades by paying them on despatch of tickets with a courier such as UPS.
So when the fraudster decided to pull-off the scam, he was apparently able to continue collecting money from unsuspecting buyers until the websites realised the extent of the rip-off, as complaints arrived at increasing numbers. By then the fraudster had slipped away.
If the sale of the scam is the size that sources suggest, then apart from the misery experienced by thousands of tricked concert-goers – some travelling from overseas – it could cost the resale sites hundreds of thousands of pounds in refunds and replacement tickets.
Most offer firm guarantees to buyers, such as ‘every ticket is absolutely guaranteed’ (Seatwave), ‘Viagogo guarantees every transaction’, and back them with the promise of refunds in the ticket happens to be invalid and irreplaceable.
However, at least one site has refused a refund without production of the fake ticket, which was confiscated at the venue. Another has emailed buyers suggesting they check their tickets, perhaps having identified the alleged former power seller, and therefore his victims.
One of those who has reported the fraud to the police is Reg Walker, operations director of security specialist The Iridium Consultancy, whose clients include venues and promoters across the country.
He tells LIVE UK, “This appears to be a huge, well-planned scam and any website reselling e-tickets they can’t validate is vulnerable to this type of fraud.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Phil Mead, director of arenas at the NEC Group, which runs the LG Arena. “If ticket-buyers want the ultimate protection, then they should buy only from a primary agent,” he says.
As the extent of the fraud continues to unravel, LIVE UK contacted the leading resale sites, but only Get Me In! would acknowledge the problem.
A statement from the company says it is “aware of an issue relating to the validity of some tickets for the recent Beyoncé shows at The O2” and that it is “working with the police to investigate the matter.”
At least one other site is believed to have contacted police and a whistle-blower is also helping with information.