SPOKANE, Wash. - Karly Searl and her friend Emily Stark never thought they'd be "those people," the ones who fall for scams.
But, that's exactly what happened when they tried to buy tickets for a sold-out Brett Young concert at the Knitting Factory in Spokane.
"You hear of that happening and you never think you're going to fall for it or that it happens locally, but it does," Searl said.
Searl said she'd normally go through the event location to buy tickets, but since they were sold out, she tried her luck with Craigslist. She found an ad offering tickets to the show, so she contacted the person.
That ad included a local area code and someone quickly responded. Searl and Stark settled on paying $100 total for two tickets.
Searl was cautious about buying tickets from someone she didn't know, so she asked to see some sort of confirmation.
Just got done talking to Karly and her friend who fell for a concert ticket scam. They were trying to get tickets to the sold out .@BrettYoungMusic show at The Knitting Factory. They connected w/someone through #Craigslist—which was a mistake. #KXLY pic.twitter.com/cYXzYCRF8r— Ariana Lake (@arianaKXLY) April 4, 2019
The seller texted her a photo of what looked like a legit e-ticket. That was enough to convince Searl, so she sent the money through a secure money transfer app.
"She seemed so nice and understanding," Searl said.
That's when the seller was supposed to send her the e-tickets. But, she stopped responding to messages and calls.
Searl had Stark message the seller to pretend to be a new buyer. Text messages showed the seller quickly messaged back and said the tickets were still available.
As soon as Stark said she was actually a friend of Searl's, the seller stopped responding.
Searl even used the money transfer app to request the $100 be returned, if the seller wasn't going to actually give her the tickets. The seller denied that request.
"So, yeah, we were out the hundred and had no tickets in return," Searl said.
It was clear they'd been scammed, so Searl reported the incident to Crime Check and shared her story on a community Facebook page.
Searl said that it didn't take long until other people were commenting saying they had been scammed by someone with the same number from Craigslist. Some of those people said they'd also be calling Crime Check to report the incident, referring to Searl's case number, which is #201920057743.
"It all seemed like it was on the up and up and honest. There are people out there who are just really good at tricking you, unfortunately," Searl said.
John O'Brien with the Spokane Police Department said people who fall victim to ticket scams in Spokane should call Crime Check. He said reporting the crime probably won't send a police officer to your home to get more details, but it starts a paper trail.
"It gives us documentation and it tells us of a pattern or who may be responsible for this time and time again," O'Brien said.
WestCoast Entertainment President Justin Kobluk said the only way to know you are buying legit tickets and getting them for a fair price is by buying through official channels, like the show presenter, the official ticketing company, and the official venue.
If you buy through someone else, you're putting yourself at risk.
"You're in danger of having your one night out, a very significant purchase for you and your family, be illegitimate and that's tough for us in the industry knowing we do everything we can to try and protect that and limit any of the accesses to secondary sites," Kobluk said. "But, if someone wants to buy our tickets and do something nefarious with it, they can."
Kobluk said there have been pushes to reform laws regarding ticket resales, but they've never gained enough support.
Some banking institutions and credit card companies do offer protections for incidents like this. Searl said her local credit union refunded her the amount, but they couldn't get the money back from the seller.
Here are some ways to avoid becoming a victim of ticket scams, according to USA.gov, which is a division of the U.S. General Services Administration's Technology Transformation Service:
- Buy tickets at the venue box office.
- Buy tickets from authorized brokers and third party sellers, with verified contact information.
- Verify that the seller has a real physical addresses and phone numbers. Scammers often post fake addresses, PO Box, or no address on their websites.
- Check the actual web address of the resale ticket seller. Some scammers create phony websites that closely resemble authentic ticket company websites.
- Search for negative reviews about the seller. Use the seller’s name, email address, and phone number, along with the words “fraud,” “scams,” and “fake tickets” for your online search.
- Look at the tickets before you buy and verify the date and the time printed on them.
- Make sure the section and seat numbers on the tickets actually exist at the venue.
- Have the seller meet you in person in a public place for the ticket exchange.
- Ask the seller for proof that they bought the tickets, if you are buying from an individual.
- Use a credit card to pay third party sellers. Your credit card offers protections, if you need to dispute a charge.
- Check for complaints against a ticket seller with your state’s consumer protection agency.
- Don’t wire transfer money to pay for tickets.
- Don’t trust sellers who want you to pay with a prepaid money card.
- Don’t pay before seeing the tickets
- Don’t meet an individual ticket seller alone or in a low-traffic area.
- Don’t automatically trust online search results for ticket sellers. Search results can include paid ads, sellers that charge high fees, and scams.
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