Personal Finance

What to consider before buying a concert ticket from a stranger

Key Points
  • One third of event goers has purchased a ticket from a scalper, according to a recent survey by Aventus, a blockchain-based ticketing platform.
  • More than 10 percent of millennials have been a victim of ticket fraud.
  • "The best way to get your money back is to avoid the scam,” said Katherine Hutt of the Better Business Bureau.
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It can be easy to fall for a ticketing scam.

In April, Emily, a graduate student in Minneapolis, was trying to find two last-minute tickets to see Jorja Smith, an English R&B singer. The tickets sold at the venue were out of her price range, so she looked for someone selling extra ones online.

That plan didn't really pan out in this case, said Emily, who asked that her last name not be used.

She did find a woman selling extra tickets online, but the seller asked to be paid with Amazon gift cards. Emily obliged, because the $35 asking price was within her budget.

The woman never sent the ticket. Emily realized she'd been scammed.

"I lost the price of one ticket, which sucked, but it could have been worse," Emily said.

More than 10 percent of millennials have fallen victim to ticket fraud, according to a recent study by Aventus, an open-source blockchain-based ticketing platform. The study also found that one-third of respondents had purchased a ticket from a scalper, leaving them four times more likely to be a victim of a scam.

The online survey, conducted in June, included more than 1,000 customers in the U.S. who have bought an event ticket on the web.

Headed to a concert or game? Watch out for ticket scams
Headed to a concert or game? Watch out for ticket scams

"It's time for the ticketing industry to embrace new technology to give organizers, venues and artists the tools to safeguard against scalping and unfair pricing," said Annika Monari, cofounder of Aventus.

Industry wide issues

Buying tickets online can be frustrating, Aventus found. Consumers dislike vendors that are not transparent about processing fees.

Reselling tickets on secondary sites such as StubHub, an online ticket exchange owned by eBay, for a higher price than the original ticket is also an issue. Many consumers view it as unethical, according to the Aventus report.

"If you buy a ticket on the primary market, you're buying it at face value plus booking fees," said Monari. "On the secondary market, it could be any price."

Sellers are able to name the amount they want for tickets on StubHub, said Aimee Campbell, a spokesperson for the company. StubHub gives vendors guidelines, but will not place caps on ticket prices.

"We believe in an open market," Campbell said.

Some sites also use bots, computer programs that help vendors acquire tickets quickly, to list tickets for a higher price on another site.

"A lot of people don't understand how these bots work," said Alan Vey, cofounder of Aventus. This means fans could be paying more for a ticket than necessary.

It's a battle the large ticket vendors are constantly fighting. Primary sites such as Ticketmaster spend "an incredible amount of resources dedicated to fighting bots," said Justin Burleigh, chief product officer for Ticketmaster North America.

"At the end of the day, we want tickets to get into the hands of the real fan," Burleigh said.

How to protect yourself

If you're excited about seeing an adored artist or important game, it might be easier to miss red flags when buying tickets online. Scalpers generally have real tickets to sell while scammers do not, said Katherine Hutt, a national spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau. Both are financially motivated and use a combination of scarcity and immediacy to lure consumers.

"The solution for both is somewhat the same," said Hutt. "Make sure you know you who are buying your tickets from."

1. Buy ahead of time from the venue

Ticket prices, as well as the likelihood of fraud, go up as the event nears, according to a recent report by Riskified, an online fraud prevention company.

Buying as early as possible means you have a lower chance of purchasing tickets that are fake or have an inflated price. Purchasing directly from the venue or on a verified site such as Ticketmaster is your best bet, said Hutt.

If you're looking for a reseller, buy from a site with its own consumer protection policy or one registered with the National Association of Ticket Brokers, which offers a money back guarantee, said Hutt.

2. Know the ticket value

If there's an event you're dying to see and you can't get tickets from the venue, name your price before looking at resale sites, said Campbell from StubHub.

On most sites, it is up to the seller to price the ticket and it may be marked up from the original amount, Campbell said. Do a little research with online tools such as seating charts and price trackers to make sure you're paying a fair price.

"If you do see a price you're happy with, go for it," Campbell said.

3. Purchase with a credit card and transfer digitally

Using a credit card to buy tickets gives you an added layer of protection, Hutt said. If you discover that you have been the victim of a scam, the credit card company can help recoup your money.

If you're able to have tickets digitally transferred to you through a platform like Ticketmaster's fan to fan exchange, you will know that they've been reverified, said Burleigh from Ticketmaster. That's better than buying a paper ticket on a street corner, said Burleigh.

4. Check the tickets and don't share online

If you're worried that the tickets you've purchased are fake, an easy way to check is to call the box office and ask them to verify. You can do this as soon as you have the tickets in hand or online.

"Especially if you're giving them as gifts, you want to check them out ahead of time," Hutt said.

A lot of people get excited when their tickets arrive and post a picture on social media, said Campbell from StubHub.

"A barcode can be very easily replicated and if someone uses that barcode before you, your ticket won't work," said Campbell. If you do want to share, cover up the barcode and any other personal information.

5. Report scams

You can also check for scams by searching for reviews of ticket vendors or brokers online, said Hutt from the Better Business Bureau. You can also report a scam through the Federal Trade Commission, or through the BBB's scam tracker.

Avoidance is the best defense

If you buy tickets online on a sketchy site, you could be risking identity theft as well as a ticketing scam.

If you believe your identity has been compromised, Hutt said to seek out resources such as or the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Scams can feel terrible, especially if you spend money and don't get to attend the event for which you bought tickets.

"The best way to get your money back is to avoid the scam," said Hutt.

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