Heartbreak motel: Ticket fraud could ruin your day

Ticket scalping isn't new. In fact, it's been around since most of the ticket holders for this October's Rolling Stones concert were born.

Reps for Ticketmaster, the official ticketing agent for most of today's big tours, say they're working hard to combat ticket fraud in the information age.

For instance, the company recently introduced ticketFast®, an online alternative to paper tickets, allowing buyers to print out a barcode for the venue to scan. So far, so good.

But if the original ticket holder hits "print" a second time on the trusty laser-printer, hoping to turn a quick– if totally fraudulent– profit, a naïve fan in the parking lot could wind up seat-less. (Unless they beat the seller to the door and get their barcode scanned first.)

Once a ticketFast® ticket is scanned at the venue, the number can't be scanned again. When this happens, as at the U2 concert last May, hundreds of fans with duplicate tickets are turned away at the door.

Another kind of fraud reared its ugly head at the Dave Matthews Band concert at Scott Stadium in 2001. A pair of Northern Virginia Daveheads held what they thought were legit tickets. It later turned out theirs were voided tickets that had been reported as lost in the mail. Moral of the story, according to Ticketmaster spokesperson Bonnie Poindexter? Don't buy from any reseller, aka scalper.

"When people have no monetary interest in an event, they don't put money back in the industry," says Poindexter. "So scalping is a detriment to the venue and the event."

While at least 16 states explicitly forbid the resale of tickets– whether for face value or more– Virginia Code section 15.2-969 grants localities or municipalities the ability to license or prohibit resale of tickets. According to Lisa Miller in the City Attorney's office, Charlottesville has no scalping ban on the books. But Poindexter warns that buying any tickets from individuals could be problematic. They could be counterfeits– or they might have been cancelled by Ticketmaster.

Fans who've given cash to a stranger obviously have no recourse. But even seemingly benign portions of the "secondary market" could pose problems.

Suppose a pair of tickets sold to you by a friend have been cancelled by Ticketmaster. You might get your money back, but Poindexter notes that may be cold comfort.

"The show's over," she says. "The tour's moved on. Try explaining that to your teenager who just missed Jack Johnson." Or your 'boomer' who missed the Stones in Charlottesville.

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Real or bogus?