Heading to a Summer Concert or Big Game? Beware of Counterfeits

PHOTO: Fans react as musicians Nick Jonas, Joe Jonas, and Kevin Jonas of Jonas Brothers arrive at a free concert at Irving Plaza, June 11, 2009 in New York.

You arrive at the summer concert venue and can hear the strains of music from the main stage. Ticket in hand, you step through the front gate … and boom! Here comes the security manager.

Bad news: That ticket in your hand is a fake and you won’t be seeing the show.

Counterfeit ticket scams are a year-round problem at sporting events and a perennial occurrence at summer concert tours, said Justin Cole, spokesman for the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. While the NIPRCC does not keep national statistics on the problem because arrests are often made in local jurisdictions, Cole said the problem shows no sign of slowing down, due to sophisticated printing technology and large profits on high face-value tickets.

Today’s phony tickets look and feel authentic to the buyer – though they still won’t get the holder into the concert, sporting event or theatrical performance.

Just last Thursday, law enforcement officials in suburban Chicago arrested a 29-year-old man for allegedly selling fake Chicago Blackhawks tickets. Earlier in May, three New York men were charged with allegedly selling phony Washington Wizards playoff tickets on Craigslist.

Sophisticated fakes can include logos, holographic images and bar codes, said Bill Patterson, vice president of global licensing for OpSec Security, a corporate brand protection firm. But even if the bar code could get you in the door, you would find the rightful ticketholder is already in your seat, Patterson said.

Consumers have been conditioned to buy tickets on the secondary market when they miss out on original ticket sales. But it’s important to know who you’re dealing with and the terms and conditions of the sale.

Some ticket companies, such as eBay-owned ticketing giant StubHub.com, offer money-back guarantees in the case of fraud. In the case of invalid tickets, StubHub promises consumers it will try to find them replacement tickets if they call (866) STUBHUB from the venue, and if they can’t, they’ll refund the cost of the tickets, including service fees and shipping.

If you still decide to purchase tickets from an individual in a private transaction, make sure they are willing to stand at the gate with you as you present the ticket, Cole suggested.

Here are some tips for avoiding ticket scams from the NIPRCC, the Better Business Bureau and the National Association of Ticket Brokers:

Don’t pay cash for tickets or wire funds. Using a credit card will allow you to file a dispute in case there’s a problem.

Use only brokers that have clear terms and conditions for the sale. Understand what the ticket surcharge is, how and when the tickets will be sent to you, and the policies for refunds, rescheduling, event cancellations and fraud.

Check out several competing brokers to compare ticket prices and availability.

Before you buy, check the venue’s seating chart to make sure you aren’t purchasing nonexistent seats or seats with a horrible view.

Beware of fake listings, such as sellers that claim to be affiliated with a well-known ticket broker but who demand payment by wire transfer, cashier’s check or a bank wire transfer instead of through the company’s official site. If you suspect a website is a bogus copy, call the real company’s customer service number and check the URL.

If you’ve purchased a counterfeit ticket, contact your local law enforcement. You can send the NIPRCC a copy of your complaint HERE.

- The ABC News Fixer

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