BBB warns of possible Panthers ticket scam

htrenda@charlotteobserver.comNovember 15, 2013 

  • Learn more To see the Better Business Bureau’s tips on ticket-buying:

The Better Business Bureau cautions fans looking for tickets to Monday night’s Panthers vs. Patriots game to be aware of counterfeits and scams.

That’s something the organization hasn’t had to do since 2008, said BBB President Tom Bartholomy.

“It’s only when we’re good,” he said with a laugh. “The last time we had to issue anything like this around the Panthers was in 2008, when they were in the playoffs.”

On Friday afternoon, tickets that would typically be $100 were selling online for nearly $1,000, Bartholomy said, adding that it’s legal in North Carolina to mark prices up online. “The game Monday night is a hot ticket. … There’s a lot of demand for a fixed amount of supply.

“If you’re selling your tickets on StubHub, you can sell a $100 ticket for $300, that’s perfectly legal,” he said. “If you’re on the street in front of the stadium selling it for $300, that would be in violation of” state laws.

Ticket brokers or scalpers find a way around ticketing laws by selling the $100 ticket at that value, but only if a fan buys it with another item – such as a hat or program – for more than it’s worth, Bartholomy said.

The secondary ticket market for sporting and entertainment events is a $10 billion-per-year industry, according to the BBB, and the risk of getting scammed occurs when tickets are bought from individuals outside the venue, through online auctions, classifieds and bulletin boards.

The BBB offered the following advice on how fans can protect their purchase and get to the game:

• Online ticket sellers TicketsNow, StubHub and RazorGator all have an A+ rating from the BBB. “They offer money-back guarantees,” Bartholomy said. “If you do get tickets through them and they’re counterfeit, you will get your money back, but that won’t get you into the game.”

• Know what a real ticket looks like. “Go to the ticket window, say ‘I know it’s sold out, but I’m going to buy off the street. Can I see a sample ticket?’ and they’ll be happy to show one to you,” Bartholomy said. “You can look for special markings or anything like that.”

• Be wary of printouts. Certain online ticket brokers such as TicketMaster allow customers to print their tickets, which means fans might be buying a fake. Some scammers print off 10, 15, 20 copies of the same ticket, Bartholomy said.

“Only the first one is going to get in the game,” Bartholomy said. “Everyone else is left with a very expensive piece of paper.”

• Proximity is everything. The closer a broker or scalper is to the venue, the more likely the ticket is legit, Bartholomy said.

“If someone knows they’re selling a counterfeit ticket, there are more opportunities to be caught around the stadium. There are police there. People could go immediately to the gate to see if the ticket is counterfeit, turn around and say ‘That’s the guy,’” he said.

“That’s not to say the ones that are five blocks away are suspect, but there is more opportunity for (tickets) to be counterfeit.”

• Heed online warnings. Fans might be able to find tickets through Craigslist, Bartholomy said, but there are a number of things to be cautious of. “If people are asking you to wire money or use a Green Dot card, a preloaded debit card, that’s exactly like handing them cash. It’s not traceable or recoverable; there’s no extra security,” he said, noting the BBB hears of advance payment and tickets that never arrive.

“When encouraged to use cash, be cautious of your surroundings. … If you’re buying from an individual, make sure you’re doing it in a very public, very well-lit area,” Bartholomy said.

“There have been instances where people have been robbed. They steal your money, and you don’t get your tickets that way, either.”

Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda

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