GIG GOERS have been urged by West Midlands Police to be wary of unauthorised ticket sales sites after a social experiment saw more than 1,500 people fall for a spoof advert.
Facebook users received a series of flash sales from a secondary ticket provider called ‘Surfed Arts’ offering entry to sold-out performances across the UK, including an Iron Maiden gig in Birmingham.
However, ‘Surfed Arts’ was a fictitious supplier created by City of London Police and Action Fraud as part of a web test to raise awareness of sales scams.
More than 1,500 people clicked through and tried to buy tickets − including 327 for the Iron Maiden show − from the fake firm before being notified it was a social experiment.
Det Insp Neil Postins from West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “These people were fortunate they fell for a police experiment and not real fraudsters who would have taken their money for tickets that didn’t even exist.
“The experiment shows just how easy it can be for people to be lured into clicking on links to ticketing sites without having any knowledge of the seller and whether they can be trusted.
“Fraudsters may well use information taken from people’s social profiles to target them with appealing adverts − in this case the prospect of tickets to band or performer they are fans of.
“Our advice would always be to buy from recognised, approved sellers and don’t be tempted by random online offers.”
Selected Facebook users living within 40km of the Birmingham gig received the flash sale offer on their timeline − with people ranging in age from under 24 to over 65 all clicking on the hoax link.
They were immediately told they were not able to purchase the event tickets and advised on how to protect themselves from falling victim to real ticket fraudsters in the future.
More than 21,000 people have reported falling victim to ticket fraud in the last three years with around £17million lost to ticket fraudsters.
City of London Police’s National Coordinator for Economic Crime, Temporary Commander Dave Clark said: “The purpose of the hoax was to try and directly affect consumers’ online behaviour and make them think twice before buying tickets from spurious ticket sites.
“No matter what you’re buying a ticket for: a concert, a sports event or a flight, people need to be vigilant and aware that fraudsters all over the globe are trying to make money out of people’s desire to buy tickets quickly and easily online.”
Surfed Arts adverts were also targeted at fans of Adele in London, Ed Sheeran in Manchester, Coldplay in Cardiff and Bruno Mars in Leeds.
How to protect yourself against ticket fraud:
* Only buy tickets from the venue’s box office, the promoter, an official agent or a well-known and reputable ticket exchange site. Should you choose to buy tickets from an individual (for example on eBay or on a social networking site), never transfer the money directly into their bank account but use a secure payment site such as PayPal.
* Paying for your tickets by credit card offers increased protection over other payment methods. Avoid making payments through bank transfer or money transfer services, as the payment may not be recoverable.
* Check the contact details of the site you’re buying the tickets from. There should be a landline phone number and a full postal address. Avoid using the site if there is only a PO Box address and mobile phone number, as it could be difficult to get in touch after you buy tickets. PO Box addresses and mobile phone numbers are easy to change and difficult to trace.
* Before entering any payment details on a website, ensure that you’re on a secure page by: 1 – Checking the web address starts with https (the ‘s’ stands for secure). 2 – That there is a locked padlock icon in the browser’s address bar.
* Getting tickets from a member of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) ensures you’re buying from a company that’s signed up to their strict Code of Practice governing standards of service and information.
* If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by visiting actionfraud.police.uk