How Big Are The Ticket Scams?

Critics of the last UK government’s failure to outlaw ticket touts were handed more ammunition after two news reports suggested secondary ticketing and outright fraud may be much more rife than previously believed.

“Welcome to the Wild West,” was SJM Concerts’ Rob Ballantine comment in 2008 when the government decided not to legislate against touts. His prediction of a secondary market free-for-all appears to be borne out by investigations by the Sunday Times and BBC News.

The Sunday paper’s story reckoned one in five tickets is now sold through secondary sites. It ran a front-page story and two-page investigation into how touts get their tickets and found their sources include promoters, primary ticket sites and even the artists themselves.

It was published a couple of days after BBC News revealed rogue ticket sites – which collect money for tickets and then disappear – are exploiting consumer protection laws to cover their scams.

It said any out-of-pocket customers who manage to contact the fraudsters running the bogus sites are told to use consumer legislation to get money back from their credit card companies.

“It’s a new trend that we’ve seen escalate in the past few months,” said Reg Walker of security specialists Iridium Consultancy. “The customer is a bit miffed at not getting their tickets, but because they tend to get their money back, they don’t see themselves as victims and so a lot of it goes unreported.”

Figures from the Office of Fair Trading and security firm G4S Events both suggest that one in 12 ticket buyers admits to having been duped by fake ticketing websites.

But the latest news stories and Walker’s comments indicate that number may be only the tip of the iceberg. Secondary ticket trading and fraudsters are likely turning over millions more pounds than previous estimates have suggested.

The Sunday Times investigation claimed Ticketmaster, which last month came under the scrutiny of BBC consumer affairs programme “Watchdog” for directing customers to its own resale site, is doing the same to those wanting to see Kylie Minogue or Lady Gaga.

The paper and the TV programme both claim tickets sold by Ticketmaster are immediately being resold on its secondary ticketing subsidiary at vastly inflated prices.

The Times piece also said that exploitation is now so rife that even those who work in the secondary market believe the public is getting a raw deal.

It quoted the Association of Secondary Ticket Agents chairman Graham Burns saying tout sites are regularly being supplied by concert promoters, venue operators and even artist managers.

“The ordinary fan is screwed. The decks are stacked against them,” he said.

The paper also reported that touts now have special software that can snap up thousands of tickets in seconds. The bot is claimed to be able to grab thousands of tickets from official sites as soon as they go on sale.

Earlier in the year, four men who ran Wiseguy Tickets in the U.S. were charged with using similar software.

Some UK MPs believe there should be another investigation into the secondary market and Sharon Hodgson, the Labour member for Washington and Sunderland West, has tabled a private members bill aimed at clamping down on it.