ARLINGTON, Va. – December 18, 2007 – With college football’s bowl season kicking off this week and more than one million students, alumni and fans searching for tickets, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to look 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. 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 Steve Cox, spokesperson for the BBB System. “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. As an example of the money flowing through this year’s bowl games, online broker, TicketCity.com, expects the championship game between Louisiana State University and the Ohio State University will be the “biggest college bowl game of all time besides the Rose Bowl of two years ago” in terms of ticket prices, at more than $1,500 per ticket.
“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 Cox. “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.
College football is big business, and where there is big money to be made, scams always follow. Beginning Thursday, over the course 19 days, teams from 35 states, representing 64 colleges and universities will participate in the 2007-2008 bowl season. The NCAA Postseason Football Licensing Subcommittee notes that last year’s bowl season drew about 1.6 million fans and about $217.6 million in revenue was distributed to participating schools and conferences.
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 the ticket you purchase online will be valid to attend the event.
- When buying from a merchant, always look for the BBBOnLine seal. The logo will tell you that you’re dealing with a company that has a good reputation for satisfying customers and a secure Web site for processing your payment.
- When buying from an individual through an online exchange don’t be lured away from the Web site by the seller. Even if you met the seller on the exchange Web site, the company may not guarantee any lost money if a transaction occurs outside their domain.
- If you buy 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; you’ll have no way to get your money back if the tickets do not arrive.
- 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 venue’s Web site before you buy.
For more tips and advice you can trust for safe shopping online go to www.bbb.org, or visit BBBOnLine at: www.bbbonline.org/consumer.
Reporters and journalists may contact Alison Preszler, CBBB’s Media Relations Specialist or call 703-247-9376 to request an interview or additional information. BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about BBB.