2007-09-15 / News

Watch out for on-line ticket purchase scams

COLUMBUS - With the college football season underway, the National Football League (NFL) entering the regular season and Major League Baseball (MLB) pennant races and playoffs filling fall calendars, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning sports fans to be on the lookout for fraudulent sellers when shopping for hard-to-get tickets online.

The secondary-ticket market for sporting and entertainment events, which includes tickets bought and sold by professional brokers, speculators and season ticket holders, is a $10-billion a-year industry, with online sales accounting for one-third of transactions and growing 15 to 20 percent a year, according to StubHub.com.

"The Internet has become the playing field of choice for sports fans looking to unload or buy tickets. Unfortunately, the Internet is also a breeding ground for scammers looking to take advantage of game day fever," said Kip Morse, president of BBB serving Central Ohio. "Sports fans are often blinded by their devotion to their team and run the risk of putting their trust in a seller that doesn't deserve it."

From its BBBOnLine database of more than 30,000 online businesses, BBB reports that a number of secondary-market ticket firms offer highly regulated Web sites, providing buyer protections that include money-back guarantees on the legitimacy of tickets. For example, TicketsNow.com takes possession of tickets and verifies them in-house before listing for resale. StubHub and RazorGator hold seller's credit-card numbers - if they sell fake tickets, they get charged for the replacements.

It is on the hundreds of online auctions, online classifieds, and bulletin boards using person-toperson sales that sports fans need to be the most skeptical and on the alert. BBB reports that every big sporting event is followed by complaints from people who got ripped off buying fake tickets - almost invariably online.

"The most common way sports fans are getting burned online is by either paying for counterfeit tickets or tickets that never arrive," added Morse. "Even if the tickets do arrive, they are sometimes not for the seats the seller advertised - which can mean being stuck with seats that aren't next to each other, up in the nosebleed section, or with an obstructed view."

BBB offers the following advice when searching online for sporting events tickets:

• When buying from a merchant, always look for the BBBOnLine seal. The logo will tell you that you're dealing with a company that has a good reputation for satisfying customers and a secure Web site for processing your payment.

• When buying from an individual through an online exchange don't be lured away from the Web site by the seller. Even if you met the seller on the exchange Web site, the company may not guarantee any lost money if a transaction occurs outside their domain.

• If you buy tickets through an online auction, choose a seller with a long, continuous, history of satisfied customers. Scammers can hijack old accounts, so make sure they have recently bought or sold other items.

• Never pay with a cashier's check or wire money to the seller; you'll have no way to get your money back if the tickets never arrive. Pay with a credit card or through PayPal, which offer some amount of protection and potential reimbursement.

• Many sellers will include pictures of the tickets with their posts on auction sites or bulletin boards. Scrutinize the tickets closely for any inaccuracies or alterations, and cross-check the seat assignment with the map on the venue's Web site before you buy.

For more tips and advice you can trust for safe shopping online go to www.bbb.org, or visit BBBOnLine at: www.bbbonline. org/consumer.

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