Sam, a tech-savvy millennial from Manchester, describes how he fell prey to ticketing cons not once, but twice … and how he now fights to stop the fraudsters
“For football fans, Champions League matches are huge events but tickets are almost impossible to get hold of from official sources. Tickets that are resold go for silly money, sometimes thousands of pounds above market value. Even so, when I found tickets for the Chelsea-Barcelona game on a classified ads site in early 2018, I didn’t hesitate to snap them up. Yes, the £2,000 price tag was steep, but they included hospitality. What’s more, it was a rare opportunity to watch the likes of Messi, Piqué and Suárez in the flesh, plus enjoy a trip to London with friends.
I’d bought tickets from the same site before and nothing this time gave me any cause for concern – not the advert, the woman who handed me the tickets outside a London tube station, or the tickets themselves.
Fast-forward to the evening of the game, and we found ourselves stopped by stewards at the turnstiles. The tickets, it turned out, were fake. I was mortified. I’d let my friends down, plus lost £2,000.
You’d think I’d have learned my lesson. You’d think I’d have been more vigilant after that. But a year later, I was scammed once more.
Again, the tickets were for a Champions League match, a Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City quarter-final, and were also on the classified ads site. This time, however, I was more careful. I asked the vendor to film a video of himself with the tickets, which he duly did. He also sent me his passport details, address and even his bank statement for extra verification.
Confident it wasn’t another scam, I transferred £960 for three tickets into the seller’s account. They were supposed to arrive by post; he even provided a tracking number. I waited and waited. But the tickets never turned up. And that tracking number? Fake, of course.
“Disappointed” doesn’t cover it. I couldn’t believe I’d been conned once again. I immediately went into investigation mode. Typing the vendor’s name into Facebook, I found many discussions from others who’d been swindled by him. I approached these victims to find out more; one was even an old school friend of his who he’d scammed. There were seemingly no depths to which he wouldn’t sink.
My detective work also revealed the industrial scale at which this fraudster had been operating. He’d been scamming for years in every sport you can think of, not just football.
I compiled the info into a 30-page dossier and submitted it to the police, who opened a case. A year later the fraudster was ordered to undertake community service.
Sadly, none of this resulted in me getting my money back. Even though the scammer eventually sent £600 to my account to partly reimburse me, he’d obtained this money by defrauding another person, so I had to return it.
I now raise awareness about scamming online, calling out dubious adverts and warning others. There’s so much deception online: fake websites that imitate genuine ticket firms, or people using sophisticated printers to create authentic-looking tickets. [Fraud where victims are tricked into transferring cash to scammers has become scarily common, with £583.2m stolen in 2021, compared with £420.7m in 2020.]
You really do have to be wary. If you can’t get tickets for an event from an official source such as the football club, venue box office, or reputable ticket site, here’s what to watch out for …
Firstly, never transfer money directly into the vendor’s account: always use a secure credit or debit card. If you’re buying tickets from a website, look out for a padlock symbol in the browser window: it signals the site is secured with a digital certificate. And even though it didn’t work for me, ask the vendor to record a video of themselves so you have some physical identification should things go wrong.
There are other red flags. If the vendor gets irritable at your requests, don’t go any further. Also, for some reason, scammers’ emails always have awful spelling and grammar: think full stops in all the wrong places.
Above all, never feel pressured. If a vendor says you should buy this ticket before a specified date, otherwise it won’t be available, it’s probably a psychological trick to make you hand over your money.
You can also help others from being scammed. If you’ve snagged seats for a game or gig, never boast about it by sharing photos of the tickets on social media: criminals can copy the barcode to create bogus tickets.
We think of online fraud as something elderly grandparents might succumb to, not the most tech-literate generation in history but, apparently, millennials are just as likely to fall for scams [according to internal data from Lloyds Bank*, younger people are more likely to be victims of purchase scams, with the average age being 35]. Because we’ve grown up with digital media, we place too much trust in it. In the real world, we’d never give money to somebody without them providing the goods. But we do it online, time and time again.
With this year’s World Cup in Qatar just around the corner, there’s likely to be a scramble for tickets, which means the scammers will come out in force. I’ll carry on campaigning to raise awareness, so others don’t suffer in the way that I did: we can’t let them win.”