Big events bring out ’rogue’ ticket sell­ers

Var­i­ous meth­ods tar­get ‘pas­sion­ate’ buy­ers as scams are on the rise.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By Ne­dra Rhone [email protected]

It’s not un­usual for ticket buy­ers to en­counter scams when buy­ing tick­ets for ma­jor sport­ing events or con­certs. It is un­usual for those ac­cu­sa­tions to come from friends and fam­ily.

Last week, Ke­tan Shah, 48, a busi­ness­man from Lawrenceville, was ar­rested in Cal­i­for­nia, hav­ing fled the metro area in De­cem­ber. He is ac­cused of tak­ing more than $750,000 for Su­per Bowl LIII tick­ets he never de­liv­ered to friends and fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing his own mother. Shah is set to be ex­tra­dited to Ge­or­gia, where he faces at least one count of theft by con­ver­sion.

“It is pretty un­usual,” said Mike Boyn­ton, vice pres­i­dent of sales for the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau (BBB) in metro At­lanta. “Typ­i­cally con­sumers are scammed when they are deal­ing with in­di­vid­u­als they

don’t know.”

Ticket scams of all sorts are alive and well, ac­cord­ing to data from the BBB. In 2018, the con­sumer pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ceived more than 300 re­ports through the on­line scam tracker about ticket scams re­lated to sport­ing events, con­certs and other events, Boyn­ton said. On­line pur­chases are the big­gest trig­gers. Over the past three years, on­line pur­chase scams jumped from 3 per­cent to 15 per­cent of to­tal scams re­ported to BBB, Boyn­ton said. Scam­mers advertise tick­ets on­line, then take money, most of­ten cash, and de­liver fake tick­ets or no tick­ets at all. Ge­or­gia’s fairly strong reg­u­la­tions on ticket re­sellers help, said ex­perts, but only to an ex­tent.

Gary Adler, spokesman for the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ticket Bro­kers (NATB), said in­di­vid­u­als like Shah who al­legedly prey on un­sus­pect­ing and emo­tional con­sumers are of­ten lumped in with le­git­i­mate sell­ers. “This is just a guy who saw this op­por­tu­nity and al­legedly did these things. That is why we put out tips and warn­ings around high-pro­file events. Tick­ets are a pas­sion­ate thing,” Adler said.

Whether it is a guy with a pile of card stock and a print­ing ma­chine plan­ning to print fake tick­ets like the At­lanta man re­cently in­dicted for traf­fick­ing coun­ter­feit tick­ets or an un­li­censed bro­ker en­gag­ing in “spec­u­la­tive list­ing,” a prac­tice in which bro­kers only ob­tain tick­ets af­ter cus­tomers have placed an or­der, con­sumers of­ten are left with no re­course.

Many con­sumers fol­low the right tips — they don’t buy from strangers, they re­view the poli­cies and re­stric­tions — but they still find them­selves en­gaged in a bad deal. It doesn’t help when scam­mers use le­git­i­mate tick­et­ing agen­cies as a cover for their shady en­ter­prises.

Jeff Welch of Sharps­burg thought he had done his due dili­gence when he pur­chased a pair of tick­ets on Craigslist to see Aero­smith dur­ing the Bud Light Su­per Bowl Mu­sic Fest at State Farm Arena. The ad en­sured au­then­tic­ity by of­fer­ing to trans­fer the tick­ets in per­son through the Tick­et­mas­ter app.

Welch first made sure he checked Tick­et­mas­ter’s pol­icy on­line and con­firmed that he had con­tact in­for­ma­tion for the seller. They met at a Cracker Bar­rel in Cony­ers, and be­fore hand­ing over $300 cash, Welch con­firmed the trans­fer had gone through and the tick­ets had ap­peared in his Tick­et­mas­ter ticket queue. “Ev­ery­thing seemed kosher un­til the night we got to the con­cert,” Welch said.

That night, when Welch pulled out his phone to scan the QR code, it had dis­ap­peared. “I thought there was a glitch,” he said. But when he spoke to man­age­ment, he learned the tick­ets had been re­moved from his ac­count af­ter the orig­i­nal buyer claimed fraud through Tick­et­mas­ter. Of­fi­cials on-site told him the ticket had been sold mul­ti­ple times. Welch said he thinks a loop­hole in Tick­et­mas­ter’s trans­fer sys­tem en­abled the scam­mer to re­sell the ticket over and over to dif­fer­ent buy­ers, each time claim­ing the sale was fraud­u­lent.

In re­sponse to the AJC’s re­quest for com­ment, a spokesper­son for Tick­et­mas­ter said the fraud depart­ment was re­search­ing the is­sue. Welch ended up buy­ing new tick­ets for the show that evening from StubHub, the ticket ex­change com­pany owned by eBay.

“It is a shame to hear all of these sto­ries. We work hard to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the dif­fer­ence be­tween rogue sell­ers and pro­fes­sion­als,” said Adler. “(NATB) has a de­tailed code of ethics and a com­plaint pro­ce­dure for con­sumers who feel they have been wronged. Our mem­bers do the right thing and take care of peo­ple.”

In Ge­or­gia, ticket bro­kers must pay a $500 an­nual fee to the sec­re­tary of state for a li­cense, have a per­ma­nent of­fice or place of busi­ness and reg­is­ter for sales and use tax pur­poses. Only li­censed bro­kers can re­sell tick­ets above face value; how­ever, the pro­vi­sion does not ap­ply to in­di­vid­u­als who are re­selling a ticket that was pur­chased for per­sonal use.

“Peo­ple have very lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of how the ticket mar­ket works, es­pe­cially for high-pro­file events,” Adler said. “It just brings out the bad ac­tors.”

‘Peo­ple have very lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of how the ticket mar­ket works, es­pe­cially for high-pro­file events. It just brings out the bad ac­tors.’

Gary Adler

Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ticket Bro­kers spokesman

ROBB CO­HEN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY & VIDEO /ROBBSPHOTOS.COM

Jeff Welch of Sharps­burg thought he had done his due dili­gence when he pur­chased a pair of tick­ets on Craigslist to see Aero­smith (above) dur­ing the Bud Light Su­per Bowl Mu­sic Fest. The ad en­sured au­then­tic­ity by of­fer­ing to trans­fer the tick­ets in per­son through the Tick­et­mas­ter app. That night, how­ever, when Welch pulled out his phone to scan the QR code, it had dis­ap­peared.

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