With college football's bowl season kicking off and more than one million students, alumni and fans wishing to attend, the Utah Better Business Bureau warns Carbon County consumers to watch out for fraudulent sellers when shopping for expensive and hard-to-get bowl tickets online.
BBB has discovered a scam involving a secondary seller of championship game tickets on eBay. The scammer said he was in England on business and would not be attending the game in New Orleans, La.
Before he'd agree to send the tickets, he wanted payment wired through Western Union in advance. The phony "seller" even provided pictures of the tickets to convince potential buyers he was honest.
The scammer claimed the ticket transfer would be handled by an escrow company in California called the Square Trade Center. But BBB confirmed that the company, Square Trade, is not an escrow company, and doesn't handle buyer/seller transactions.
"The most common ways secondary-ticket sellers are scamming sports fans is by delivering counterfeit tickets or simply not sending the tickets," said Jane Driggs, president of the Utah BBB. "Even if the tickets do arrive, they are sometimes not for the seats the seller advertised - which can mean the fan is stuck with seats that aren't next to each other, are in the opponent's section, are up in the nosebleed area, or have an obstructed view."
The secondary ticket market for sporting events, which includes tickets bought and sold by professional brokers, speculators and season-ticket holders, is a $10-billion-a-year industry, with online sales accounting for one-third of transactions, according to StubHub.com.
"College football bowl tickets are extremely tough for the average fan to find and purchase at a reasonable price and that's driving buyers to the Internet and the secondary-ticket market," added Driggs. "Fans must balance their passion for their teams with awareness that not all online ticket sellers will deliver on their promises, and a bad transaction could leave them at home on the couch instead of at the big game."
From its BBBOnline database of more than 30,000 online businesses, BBB reports that a number of secondary-market ticket firms offer regulated Web sites, providing buyer protections that include money-back guarantees on the legitimacy of tickets and in some cases, brand new tickets with unique barcodes identifying them as the new owner of those tickets. It's on the hundreds of online auctions, online classifieds, and bulletin boards using person-to-person sales that fans need to be most skeptical and on the alert. BBB reports that every big sporting event is followed by complaints from people who were ripped off buying tickets - almost invariably online.
BBB offers the following advice when searching online for sporting events tickets.
Only the event, the venue and the event's authorized ticketing company can guarantee tickets purchase online will be valid to attend the event.
When buying from a merchant, consumers should look for the BBBOnLine seal. The logo will tell people they are dealing with a company that has a good reputation for satisfying customers and a secure website for processing payments.
When buying from an individual through an online exchange don't be lured away from the website by the seller.
The company may not guarantee any lost money if a transaction occurs outside its domain.
If buying tickets through an online auction, choose a seller with a long, continuous history of satisfied customers. Scammers can hijack old accounts, so make sure they have recently bought or sold other items.
Pay with a credit card or through PayPal, which offer some protection and potential reimbursement. Never pay with a cashier's check or wire money to a seller.
Many sellers will include pictures of the tickets with their posts on auction sites or bulletin boards.
Scrutinize the tickets closely for any inaccuracies or alterations, and cross-check the seat assignment with the map on the website before buying.
For more tips and advice for safe shopping online , residents may go to www.bbb.org, or visit BBBOnLine at: www.bbbonline.org/consumer.