Festival-goers: beware of online ticket fraudsters

It's not really possible to imagine what they felt, the thousands of people who unwittingly arrived at music festivals proffering fake tickets. They had bought them from plausible-looking websites, handed over card details, paid hundreds of pounds and then... nothing.

Every summer music fans are left without seeing headlining acts and with a greater distrust of their fellow humans, either because they fell for a dodgy website or responded to personal ads "selling" non-existent tickets.

For while the internet is a fantastic resource with the ability to inform, entertain and amuse – and instant access to the greatest works of science and culture in history – it is infested with crooks. Given how easy it is to set up a fake site with picture of festival-goers and a credit card link, or to "sell" ghost tickets online, the spring and summer are busy for fraudsters.

In the worst case two years ago, around 5,000 people turned up at the Leeds and Reading festivals with bogus tickets and were turned away. Since then the Metropolitan Police's e-crime unit has shut down more than 100 fake festival websites, but they keep popping up.

Sadly, Leeds and Reading festivals are this weekend warning fans who bought from the unauthorised outlets worldwideticketstore.com and justtheticket.uk.com not to turn up at their gates.

These frauds persist because they are so easy – and because demand for music showpieces exceeds supply.

Jonathan Brown, secretary of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers, explains: "It's very easy to create a website that looks classy and reputable – but that doesn't mean it's law-abiding or will definitely supply you with what you think you are buying. People need to be vigilant."

The first tip is to visit genuine sites. Most major summer festivals this year have already sold out, including Glastonbury (glastonburyfestivals.co.uk) and the V Festival (vfestival.com). Day tickets are still available for Reading (readingfestival.com) and Leeds (leedsfestival.com) and day and weekend tickets for Latitude (latitudefestival.co.uk).

If you come across a company absent from the promoter or venue's adverts and official websites, check them out. Do they have proper details: a UK registered office, a UK registered company, a UK phone number, a VAT registration number?

Are they specific about what is being offered: the dates of the event, venue, seating or other arrangements such as camping, the ticket's face value and any booking fees?

Then be careful with payments. Look for a "security" padlock at the bottom of the screen when filling in card details and consider paying anything over £100 by credit rather than debit card, because this provides more financial protection.

Next, be wary of offers of tickets placed by individuals, such as Ashley Davis. At Reading Crown Court last month, Davis, aged 22, from Crowthorne, Berkshire, pleaded guilty to 27 counts of fraud relating to ticket sales. He had been placing adverts on websites such as eBay and Gumtree offering tickets for various concerts, including for the Reading Festival. But once he received buyer's money he did not post the tickets, because they did not exist.

"The case of Davis should act as a warning to other people tempted to buy tickets for events like the Reading Festival from unofficial sources on the internet," commented investigating officer, Detective Constable Sally Russell, from Thames Valley Police.

Thames Valley set out some guidelines for fans responding to individual ads. Meet the "seller" in person so you can see the tickets before handing over money (take someone with you for personal safety). Ensure you use secure methods of transaction such a PayPal. Never send or wire money to sellers. And never give out personal or banking information such as credit card numbers to individuals.

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