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Spend & Save

Consuming Issues: How to avoid scam summer festival tickets

Fans of the likes of Eminem, Arctic Monkeys, Rihanna, The Strokes, My Chemical Romance and Muse have been targeted by unscrupulous conmen this week. The bands are among the headlining acts at this year's summer festivals, in Leeds and Reading and the V Festivals in Chelmsford and Staffordshire. The line-ups were announced at the same time as tickets went on sale.

Anyone going online to snap up tickets would have been presented with a choice of sites to go to. But most of them are designed to trick music fans to hand over their cash in return for nothing. Scamsters set up sophisticated looking ticket-selling websites that look as if they may be official. But the tickets offered don't actually exist and never turn up.

The crooks rely on the fact that anyone buying tickets through them won't realise they've been diddled until months later when the festival actually happens. Tickets flogged by fraudsters this week, for instance, were for festivals due to be held in August. By that time, of course, the crooks will have shut down their website and will be untraceable.

The crooks rely on music fans being so eager to snap up tickets that they don't check the credentials of the sellers properly. And with tickets often costing hundreds of pounds, its an attractive business for swindlers. For instance, weekend camping passes for this summer's V Festival are £175 while Reading and Leeds would set you back £192.

The dodgy websites either pretend to be official ticket sellers or claim to be able to get hold of tickets. The V festival, for instance, is already sold out, but there are plenty of sites flogging tickets. Just because a site comes out on top for a search for a festival, it doesn't mean that the company is legitimate or will supply you with a valid concert ticket. Anyone can buy links on Google, even those sites which have no intention of supplying any tickets.

"We're aware that unofficial outlets, such as auction sites, are claiming to have V Festival tickets for sale," says Dawn Woodhouse, V Festival coordinator. "We urge the public not to try and get tickets from secondary ticket outlets, whether that be unofficial ticket outlets or through auction sites, as it could well lead to disappointment."

One of the biggest risks is buying tickets through online auction sites. If the tickets don't arrive or they turn out to be counterfeit, there will be no refund or replacement tickets. However, official ticket resellers do claim to offer protection for buyers, by holding payment details of sellers.

"Fans should not judge a site by its appearance; they must do their homework," warns Edward Parkinson, director of ticket reseller Viagogo. "Check to see whether the website has been endorsed by events or brands that you recognise. Legitimate ticket resale websites will have partnerships with leading entertainment properties."

Mr Parkinson's company, for instance, has a deal with Reading and Leeds Festivals as an official reseller. V Festival's official ticket resellers, meanwhile, are companies such as See Tickets and Star Green. Mr Parkinson reckons that Brits are collectively conned out of £30m a year by ticket scamsters and research among last year's festival-goers showed that one in 50 was the victim of a ticket scam with 67,000 fans missing out on their chosen festival last year.

A simple way to find out if you're dealing with a crook is to ask questions about when tickets will be sent. Vague answers or promises that you'll be met at the event are hallmarks of scamsters. If you think you've been a victim, call Consumer Direct for advice on 08454 04 05 06.

Heroes and villaIns: Make savings and stock up on stamps

Hero: NS&I

The Government-backed savings institution is to relaunch its tax-free inflation-linked savings certificates later this year. Traditionally they pay 1 per cent above RPI, so are a great hedge against the ravages of inflation. They were withdrawn last year after being vastly oversubscribed, so will be a welcome option for savers.

Villain: Royal Mail

It's not news, but the price of a first class stamp is rising 5p to 46p in nine days' time. Meanwhile second class stamps will go up by 4p to 36p. That's a hefty increase but you can save a bundle by snapping up books of stamps from local Post Offices now. Because they're labelled 1st or 2nd, they'll still be valid after the price hike.