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Concert Ticket Swindlers

Updated on October 9, 2017

Many years ago an enterprising rascal in England put a small ad in newspapers just prior to the F.A. Cup Final. This soccer match is the culmination of a tournament that involves hundreds of teams whittled down to the last two. It is a moment of national importance that draws vast television audiences and fills Wembley Stadium, capacity 90,000, to overflowing.

Our entrepreneurial rogue’s ad offered “Cup Final Seats” at a ridiculously low price. He was swamped with orders. In due course, buyers received their Cup Final Seats, which turned out to be small canvas stools on collapsible wooden frames with “Cup Final Seat” stencilled on one leg. With a twinkle in his eye, and no doubt measuring the distance to the nearest exit, the scoundrel explained that he never offered entry to the stadium, simply a seat from which fans could watch the game on the telly.

Perhaps, some of his victims gave a wry smile at the cleverness of the deception and chalked it up to life's rich tapestry of experiences from which we learn. The more common ticket swindle is just crude and devious.


Ticket Fraud

Ticket scammers swarm around major sporting events and rock concerts. They work on the principle that a fool and his money are soon parted, an expression that’s been around since the 16th century (see Bonus Factoid below). With people ready to drop $27,983 for a single Super Bowl seat, as one fan did in 2016, the bad guys start salivating to the point of drooling over all the rubes ready to be fleeced. The average price paid for a Super Bowl ticket in 2016 was $4,481, which some might suggest is flimflam in itself.

On a more modest level, fans shell out hundreds of dollars for concerts by the likes of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga. Buyers are told a company representative will meet them outside the event with the tickets, but nobody shows up. Sometimes, tickets are delivered only for the buyer find out when they get to the turnstiles that their tickets are counterfeit. It’s big business.

Chris Stairs was the director of ticket sales for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. According to The Vancouver Province he “cited U.K. and U.S. figures that peg the amount of ticket fraud at more than $1 billion a year worldwide, victimizing about five million consumers.”

As the music festival season was about to get underway in the U.K. in 2015, The Guardian reported that “a fresh warning was issued this week for music fans after latest figures show at least £3.35m ($4.5 million) was lost to ticket fraud in 2014, with victims losing on average £250 ($338) each.” But, the newspaper says the scale of the fraud is likely much bigger, because the numbers quoted only include rip-offs reported to the police. Many people are understandably coy about coming forward and admitting they’ve been made a monkey of.

Con artists use ads on classified sites such as Kijiji and Craig’s List or they create authentic looking websites. Targets don’t have to be especially gullible to be taken in, just desperate to see their favourite artist or team in a crucial game. It's not hard to exploit the passion of people such as Justin Bieber’s followers (below).

It's not hard to exploit the passion of people such as Justin Bieber followers.
It's not hard to exploit the passion of people such as Justin Bieber followers. | Source

Ticket Scam Protection

The experts say the best way to avoid being swindled is to buy only from recognized vendors. But that isn’t always possible because the crooks are often ahead of the crowds. Ticket scalpers use bots to scoop everything up from vendors such as Ticketmasters so that tickets for high-demand talent such as One Direction or Beyoncé are gone in minutes. Those tickets will then appear on websites at inflated prices. In this scheme, buyers might get legitimate tickets, but they’ll be paying a hefty premium over the face value.


Kijiji, which is often the unwitting vehicle used by swindlers has the following advice: “The number one rule to remember is to always transact in person. The majority of scams in this section happen when transactions occur using online money transfers like Western Union or MoneyGram. Fraudsters will ask that potential buyers send a deposit, or the full amount, before they send the tickets. They typically disappear once the money has been received.”

The British police offer the advice to “Pay for tickets by credit card – 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 more than £100 (but less than £30,000).”

There’s more advice on how to practice safe ticket buying:

  • Buy tickets direct from the promoter or box office of the venue;
  • Don’t respond to e-mails from people you don’t know and don’t buy from them;
  • Make sure a website you are using to make a purchase is secure;
  • Check bank statements to ensure the correct amount has been deducted from your account; and,
  • There are ticket broker associations in many nations, so check there to see if your vendor is a member in good standing.

Bonus Factoids

At the start of April 2015, as in the first of the month, a story made the rounds about a Florida couple being arrested for selling $99.99 golden tickets to heaven. The yarn was published by several online outlets that should have rumbled something was amiss by the date it appeared – April Fool’s Day. From there, the phoney tale has spread throughout social media.

In 1573, before standardised spelling became a thing, Thomas Tusser wrote Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie. In the book the following rhyme appeared:

A foole and his money,
be soone at debate:
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.

Fourteen years later Dr. John Bridges gave a more precise wording of the proverb: “If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them ... let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted.”


“Super Bowl 50 Tickets Finish up Among the Most Expensive ever.” A.J. Perez, USA Today, February 9, 2016.

“Ticket Fraud all too Common, Expert Says After Bieber Fans Scammed.” Cheryl Chan, The Province, March 13, 2016.

“Ticket Scams.” National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, undated.

“Don’t Let a Ticket Scam Ruin the Super Bowl for You.” Jeanine Skowronski, Time, January 29, 2016.

“Ticket Fraud: Police Warn Festival Goers not to Get Fooled Again.” Rupert Jones, The Guardian, June 13, 2015.


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