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Threat to music fans from criminal cyber gangs

Get Safe Online is predicting a huge rise in online ticket scams over the summer months as the festival and concert season provides rich pickings for organised gangs of cyber criminals.

Figures from a Get Safe Online Survey suggest that more than one in ten people (or their friends or family) have already been a victim of an online ticketing scam.

According to Get Safe Online, the UK’s national internet security initiative, online scammers are going to increasing effort to dupe consumers into visiting fake ticketing websites, running their operations as ‘businesses’ and willing to make up front investments for high returns. For example, cyber criminals will often pay for search advertising (e.g. Google AdWords) so that their fake sites appear at the top of event search results. They are also known to enlist professional web designers so that their sites appear genuine.

Tony Neate, managing director of GetSafeOnline.org, adds: “Criminals used to have only one opportunity to sell fake tickets - on the day of the event. Now they have access to a huge number of potential victims over a period of months in the run up to the event. Intelligence from law enforcement and industry indicates that as many as half of the websites that sell tickets for summer festivals are bogus. It’s critical that consumers are on their guard when purchasing tickets. We are urging internet users to check with the event organisers for a list of legitimate ticket selling websites before parting with their money online.”

Det Ch Supt Steve Head who runs the City of London Police’s Economic Crime Directorate, said: “We are talking about big business here. These scams are not street touts moving online – they are websites run by organised crime gangs who are making millions of pounds.

“The lag time between purchasing and receiving tickets is the major issue. It allows web-savvy fraudsters to set-up professional looking sites to lure fans in. We are working with the ticketing industry to stop these criminals in their tracks; ensuring tickets are sent out as soon as possible, rather than just before an event. Doing this should have a significant and lasting impact on this crime.”

The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Paymaster General, adds: "Research from the National Fraud Authority indicates that the fraud loss from online tickets is estimated at £168 million. The threat to consumers is very real. As well as financial loss, fake ticketing sites may also put consumers at risk from viruses and other malicious software. The internet is a great tool and helps us to buy what we want easily and economically, but we need to make sure we are vigilant. The Get Safe Online website provides up-to-date advice and tools to help people combat the latest online threats”.

Desperate fans must not be tempted

With 38% of people turning to the internet with the purpose of getting hold of tickets to sold-out events, criminals also play on the emotions of those desperate to see their favourite artists. One method used by scammers is to target music fan websites and forums and other social networking sites. Posts will be displayed from ‘fans’ claiming they have bought tickets from a certain site, encouraging those not yet successful in obtaining tickets to visit it. More consumers are then driven to the fake site and more genuine fans fall for the scam.

Ticket scams offer high returns for fraudsters

The internet is the number one place for consumers to purchase tickets to events due to its convenience, with 52% choosing to obtain tickets via generalist ticketing websites rather than direct from the organiser. However, with almost a quarter of victims losing between £100 and £200 it is vital for internet users to be on their guard.

City of London Police has recently launched an investigation into a major ticket fraud, arresting a man linked to a site that it believes was selling non-existent ‘Take That’ tickets. Several hundred fans were tricked into parting with their money and missing out on their chance to see the concert.