Consumer Law

Step Right Up: Beware of Ticket Scams and Risks

A fresh-faced teenager clutches his football ticket, charged up about seeing his favorite pro team play in person at last. He walks through the gates, settles into his seat, and then abruptly whisked away. What happened? The young fan made the mistake of buying the ticket online from an unauthorized source. His beloved ticket, it turned out, had been stolen before he bought it. Don't let this happen to you!

A Good Deal May Not Be Real

The deal that seems too good to be true probably is. A ticket for a major event will command a hefty price whether it's for a professional sports game, a major concert or political happening such as an inauguration. Any offer to sell a ticket for a rock-bottom price, or on suspicious terms, should be avoided. Tickets offered on such terms may well be stolen or fake.

In either case, you may arrive at the event only to be turned away or worse. If the event sponsors contend that the ticket in your hand was stolen, they may call the police. In the worst case scenario, they might even charge you with theft. At a minimum, you could be detained and questioned by security personnel, or simply turned away at the entrance gate.

Read the "Fine Print" before Selling

Reselling a ticket to your high school basketball game, or to a community fund-raiser, is one thing. Venturing into the world of "ticket scalpers" of pro or college sports events or major concerts is another thing altogether, with its own set of risks and potential liabilities.

It's important to read the "fine print" on the event ticket itself to determine any restrictions on reselling the tickets. If so, you could be placing yourself at risk for civil or criminal liability, no matter how good your intentions and no matter how good your asking price for the ticket.

Check with an attorney if you are uncertain about the meaning of the "fine print" and the legal issues of reselling an event ticket. You may find out that it won't be worthwhile to resell the ticket except, if allowed, to sell it back to the original ticket seller. Further, ticket "scalping" is expressly prohibited by the laws of some states.

Victim of a Ticket Scam?

Tracking down the unscrupulous ticket scammer may be extremely difficult, especially if the scheme was through the mail (using a P.O. Box address) or through the Internet. It may be helpful to contact local law enforcement authorities, the local prosecutor's office or the local attorney general's office. These groups may have heard about similar reports from other scam victims.

An attorney can assess if it's worthwhile to pursue a lawsuit against the ticket scammer. Keep copies of all your communication and contact with the ticket seller and its "representatives."

What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

Remember to investigate closely the terms of any offer to buy a major event ticket coming from anywhere other than the official ticket seller for the event. If in doubt, check the Web site of the team, league, entertainer or venue. Place a call to the customer relations department of the official ticket seller if you have any doubts about the validity of the offer.

When you know your ticket is "legit," relax and enjoy the event.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I bought expensive tickets to a bowl game via a peer-to-peer auction site, and the tickets were invalid because they had been reported as lost or stolen. Can I sue the out-of-state seller in a small claims court in my state if the auction site's dispute resolution process doesn't go my way?
  • Can ticket brokerage services disclaim responsibility for the validity of the tickets they sell?
  • Are secondhand ticket purchases protected under common credit card account rules, do the rules vary by issuer or are some transactions not protected under consumer credit card rules
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