As football season kicks off, one man's story offers a warning about buying tickets: you may think those tickets you snagged are the real deal, only to later learn they're not.
It's leaving millions of consumers with empty wallets and no place to go.
He lives in Los Angeles, but he's from Seattle. So when the Seahawks were playing the Rams, Ryan Bell wanted to be there.
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"I genuinely wanted to see the rivalry," he said.
The game was sold out. But Bell found someone on craigslist unloading tickets. He paid the seller $320 cash for four tickets. The seller transferred the tickets to Bell through the Ticketmaster site.
Everything seemed on the up-and-up.
"It says 'Ticketmaster verified' on the bottom," Bell said. "And I was like, 'Perfect, that was awesome and easy.'"
Three days later Ticketmaster told Bell the tickets were no good.
"I said, 'what do you mean? They were transferred on your website. They say Ticketmaster verified.'"
The guy who sold Bell the tickets bought them using a stolen credit card. When Ticketmaster found out, it voided the tickets, leaving Bell holding the bag.
It's a story Ticketmaster hears all the time.
"Fraud is something Ticketmaster has dealt with the entire history of the company," said Justin Burleigh, the chief product officer of Ticketmaster.
Five million people were victims of ticket fraud last year alone, according to Ticketmaster.
The fraud can take many forms.
To prevent being one of those victims, Ticketmaster offer some advice:
- Only buy tickets from a reputable source. Do that by clicking on direct links from the venue or Ticketmaster.
- If you're searching online for tickets, watch for misspellings in the url. Fraudsters try to trick you into thinking you're buying from an authentic site.
- If you have any doubt about the source you're buying the tickets, contact the venue and ask if they have any input. Buying from someone you don't know if always iffy.
"It's an arms race, in a manner of speaking, where we have to try and stay one step ahead of every new tactic that fraudsters use," Burleigh said.
Bell ended up making the game. He eventually snagged legit tickets. The Seahawks lost. But that defeat was easier to take.
"Unfortunately the Seahawks lost. But we lost to the team that went to the Super Bowl so I'm OK with that."