Spotting a ticket scammer in the wild...

At Citizen Ticket, we pride ourselves on being an ethical outlet, with our platform designed to prevent touting and misuse. Unfortunately, not everyone is on the same page as us. We’ve all heard the Viagogo and Stubhub stories, but what about the low key scammers directly targeting individual fans? Lead Developer Doug was on the hunt for some sold out tickets recently, and almost fell foul to one of these. Here’s what happened, and some tips on what to look out for if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Sold out!

I really wanted to see Architects playing at the Wembley Arena in London. I understand the risks and that most ticketing companies don't just frown on the idea buying a second-hand ticket, but outright prohibit in their terms and conditions. I don’t care though, I’m desperate and like many, try to buy tickets from somebody else.

I wanted to do my best to be an ethical fan though, choosing to stay away from any commercial reseller websites, instead going straight to the source, my fellow fans. Far better that I buy from another fan who can no longer go, right?

The advert

I made a post on the show’s Facebook event page, a friendly message to show people that I was interested in buying an unwanted / unused ticket.

I specified exactly what I was looking for, and that I could meet them face to face to exchange the money for the ticket.

Tip: Meeting face-to-face is a good way to exchange tickets, and lowers the risk of being scammed.

Contact

After a while somebody makes contact.

They seem nice but already something is a little off… The price they want is cheaper than the actual face value of the ticket (face value is the price originally paid for the ticket, and for a sold out show like this, what I expect to pay).

Also they specify that they need it gone ‘asap’. Both of these things are psychological cues to make you a) think you are getting a good deal and b) putting pressure on you to act quickly (with less due diligence).

TIP: It is worth noting that if shows aren’t sold out, resale prices are often lower than face value, and also sometimes people are genuinely happy to receive less than the face value amount rather than being stuck with a ticket.

Beware: e-tickets

Just the fact that this is an e-ticket is a big enough red flag to not go through with it. There are just too many ways that this could be a scam and it is not worth your time / money.

They are willing to send it to me first though… So I have nothing to lose. Beware though that they are showing me that they trust me, putting a psychological onus on me to do the same and trust them.

TIP: If you can’t meet a seller physically then try and get as much evidence that they are a real person as possible. Sending a friend request and having them accept is a good method. It would be very hard to spoof a profile with lots of content, friends and pictures spanning over many years of verifiable events.

Why can’t we be friends?

She ignores my friend request and presses on, sending me the ‘ticket’. We could assume this is because she has something to hide or that this is a fake Facebook account.

TIP: Bank details are usually a good sign of a genuine seller, as they are harder to spoof and be anonymous. I would be much more wary about something like a Paypal.

The email

One the face of it, the email looks pretty good. The name matches that of the person on Facebook, the subject line mentions the correct event and there is a PDF attachment with a ‘ticket’ with the event title. There are some things wrong though:

  • Notice how the email body is blank. Why would somebody go through the trouble of creating a new email and not just forwarding on the email they received from the website?
  • Further to this, the subject is too perfect - it’s definitely a new email. You would expect it to say ‘FW:’ at the start for example. The website would most likely put an order number or text along the lines of ‘order confirmation’ in here too.
  • The file name says ‘Ticketmaster’ this is also a give away which will become more apparent when the ticket is opened...

The ticket

This is where the scam really falls apart; There is a lot wrong with this ticket:

  • This is clearly a ticket from ‘SeeTickets’ and not ‘Ticketmaster’ as the file name says
  • The fonts are slightly different in size and type. Try zooming out and this becomes even more apparent.
  • Start time: From the official Architects website, it is 6:00pm and not 7:00pm like this ticket says.
  • The address does not make sense, and a quick Google shows that it isn't real. Plus, a postcode lookup on Royal Mail shows that the postcode doesn't relate to the address correctly.

Tip: These are all things to be wary of when purchasing a ticket from anywhere other than a primary provider or trusted reseller. In a case like the above, somebody could easily pay for this ticket owing to their good nature, only to end up being rejected at the door of the event.

The investigation

The ticket clearly states the booking reference, and here is where it gets interesting. Most ticket websites will allow you to see your order / claim your account from just the reference number and last 4 digits of the card. What luck that we have these on hand!

I navigate to www.seetickets.com/CustomerService​ and enter the details

It would appear that this ticket does not match their database and that these details have been either made up or changed.

The PDF / ticket has clearly been edited… But from what? Most likely from a real ticket bought by the actual scammer or someone close to them.

Using some computer forensics I set out to reverse engineer the PDF and try and see what was there before it was edited. I manage to find the original details and put them into the See Tickets website. Now we see through the looking glass...

Here is what I really have a ticket for, a completely unrelated event from 2015:

Along with what is most likely our scammer’s real name, email and full address.

It looks as though this person was making a specific effort to directly target fans in need via the event’s Facebook page. Hundreds of people could have purchased the same, completely fake ticket. With £30 going into their pocket every time, at the expense of real fans who simply wanted to see one of their favourite bands.

Tip: If you're looking for tickets to sold out events, we recommend fan-to-fan trading platforms such as Twickets, where spare tickets are sold at face value or less.

Over the past few months, we’ve been discussing issues like this with Action Fraud, the UK’s fraud and cyber crime reporting centre. We’ll be sharing this instance with them to help build their database of evidence and prevent this happening in future.

Have you had a similar experience? Let us know at info@citizenticket.co.uk, and if you’ve been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud. And be diligent, not everyone on Facebook is a friend.

Fiona Swanson

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