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How to

Beat the Seat Cheats

Follow these tips to get the best (and safest) deal on event tickets.

Go to the source  Don’t just do an Internet search for “ABC Arena and tickets.” You could be lured to a site that looks real but is actually a scalper in disguise. Always visit an event’s official website or call the venue directly.

Join the club  Sign up for anything that moves you to the head of the line, from fan clubs to venue memberships (example: Wolf Trap, a Virginia performing arts center, lets its nonprofit foundation members—who donate $125—buy tickets before they’re made available to the public). Insiders often learn about presales and find out first when a show goes on sale.

Act slowly
  If you’re dealing with a broker, don’t jump on the first seats you see offered for sale. The closer you get to an event, the more likely prices are to drop as sellers get desperate to dump their merchandise.

Hit redial  No show is sold out until the curtain rises. Extra shows may be added. Sponsors may not use their full allocation. Ticketmaster often puts tickets back up for sale after finding that a buyer’s credit card number is fraudulent. Be persistent. Don’t hesitate to call the box office the day of the performance.

Make a bid  Price is no object? Look for “authorized” auctions such as those operated by Ticketmaster. Many artists set aside seats to keep them away from scalpers.

Beware of e-tickets  Some venues send buyers e-tickets that you print from your computer. They’re perfectly legit, but be wary if you buy them secondhand. There’s nothing to stop a scalper from selling copies of the printout. If you buy from a reseller, ask for a regular ticket.

Research their rep  It’s no guarantee you’ll get a good deal, but make sure a broker is licensed by the National Association of Ticket Brokers. Buying from a real storefront can help, too, since you can actually see the tickets. And check the seat map: those “great seats” on sale may actually be nosebleeders.

Laura Daily is a contributing editor for
AARP The Magazine.

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