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accesso Blog Series: Buyer Beware! How to Help Your Patrons Avoid Ticketing Scams.

Ticket spoofing is a major problem facing the ticketing industry. Every day, our accesso ShoWare ticketing call center receives at least one phone call from an upset patron who has fallen victim to one of these schemes, convinced that an unscrupulous vendor was actually the primary ticketing source for an event. These stories can be heartbreaking, and unfortunately, there is very little that can be done once the tickets have been purchased. Once the patron realizes they purchased from a broker, it can be challenging to help them understand it was actually their error. Read on to discover the latest tactics used by these vendors and our best advice for tackling this issue.

The Modestly-Priced Ticket With Hidden Fees

A recent customer for a very popular country music act called us to inquire about a total charge of $2,500 for four tickets, when face value was only $500. It turns out that they had accidentally purchased from a devious broker, who listed the tickets at face value but with a whopping $500 per-ticket-fee (which means a $500 purchase suddenly became $2,500!). Most often it’s not this extreme, but many times, these tickets will have a modest mark-up by the broker on face value (let’s say a $30.00 ticket being sold for $48.00) and also hold an additional fee of $15-$20. At first glance, this additional fee may seem minor, but at half the cost of the ticket, per ticket, it quickly adds up: a pair of tickets for $60 can quickly become close to $150, for no other reason than the fact that a patron accidentally purchased it from the wrong source.

It’s also helpful to be aware of the types of shows that these brokers like to target: shows like “Disney on Ice” that are very popular and feature multiple performances, spread out over multiple days. And of course, brokers will watch sales closely and if a performance starts to near sell out, they will move prices up and up and up!

Exorbitantly-Priced Tickets From a Very Convincing Imitator

The most common practice is a ticket broker who “spoofs” the website of a popular venue. They make their site look like the venue’s site, they have a seat map, and they understate their own brand in the hopes of fooling (spoofing) the consumer into buying tickets from them. The good news here is the tickets are usually valid, however they can be 2,3, even 10 times higher cost than face value. Another common practice for brokers is to create the illusion that they have better seats available than what the venue can offer. This is typically not the case.

The Golden Rule for Avoiding Most Spoofing Scams

There are a handful of ways live entertainment venues can teach their consumers to look out for ticketing scams. Simply being mindful of what to look for can make a huge difference. For example, though patrons are super excited when they purchase tickets to the concert, event or game of their dreams, immediately posting a picture of their tickets on social media is a huge don't! According to the Washington Post, "fraudsters can copy your name and bar code from your photos and make forged copies to sell to unsuspecting victims. If the pirated copies get scanned by an attendant first, you — even with the real goods — might not be allowed inside the venue." If consumers can be trained to do one thing to help eliminate most, if not all, of these spoofing scams, it'd be to simply not use search engines such as Google, Bing, or even Craigslist to find event tickets! Patrons utilizing search engines to find tickets is the behavior brokers are counting on to pull a fast one. If you search “Disney on Ice Seattle,” you will get a plethora of national brokers such as Vivid Seats and/or Stub Hub, as well as local brokers. Even searching the venue name (such as “the accesso ShoWare Center”) can result in a long list of ticket broker sites that are sometimes even ranked above that of the venue itself.

Avoiding Ticket Scams

One of the most important ways customers can avoid falling victim to ticket broker spoofs is to know the venue where the event is being held. The Better Business Bureau lists purchasing from the venue itself whenever possible as its top tip to any consumers who are looking to attend a ticketed event. Knowing the venue makes it easier to know the direct contact information for that particular venue. By navigating directly to a venue’s website, whether through your email newsletter, social media posts or direct URL, minimizes the likelihood that consumers will fall victim to the tactics of a nefarious middle-man. In staying with our example, will produce the correct result every time, as opposed to using a search engine to guide you to the verified web page.

What Can You Do About This?

Whether you are a performing arts center, theatre or sports arena, you should be proactive and educate the general population that buys tickets at your venue. Not only is it important for your patrons to purchase tickets from your box office, but they also need to know things like the refund policy and if there are certain service fees that are not refundable. It is always best to get out in front of the situation with proactive messaging, instead of looking to calm the frustrations of a consumer that has fallen victim to a ticket spoof. Below is an example of messaging to send out periodically to your email list. You can also post a similar message on your website and social platforms.

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Brokered tickets that consumers mistakenly purchase can create a lot of unneeded confusion and frustration. Even though the fraudulent tickets were not purchased through your venue, it can tarnish the reputation and brand of your venue in the eyes of potential patrons, despite the issue being completely out of the venue's control! A brand’s reputation is based on how their customers perceive the brand in many different aspects, and when someone purchases these brokered tickets, brand degradation can occur. Unfortunately, it is becoming more of a common process for consumers to aim all frustration towards the venue hosting the event. Our accesso ShoWare call center agents report that consumers seem to blame the venue, not the brokers who frauded them out of money or themselves. It's our hope that if ticketing platforms and venues take the time to educate patrons, we can help combat the issue of brokered tickets and ensure that guests have a positive experience and a long, loyal relationship with your venue.

To learn more about our accesso ShoWare box office ticketing solution, contact us here or email [email protected].

Joe Wettstead – Vice President Client Services, accesso ShoWare

Joe lives in Irvine, California with his wife Elizabeth, and his three kids are close by. He joined the accesso team in 2009 and has worked in the SaaS industry for 25 years. When he’s not helping clients find unique solutions to business challenges, Joe loves golfing, hiking, surfing, traveling, wine tasting and really taking in all Southern California has to offer.