Suburban Detroit resident Lisa Turner, 47, is a veteran concertgoer who’s been to more than 1,000 shows over the past few decades — somehow managing to find tickets to performances by wildly popular artists like Billy Joel, Elton John and the Rolling Stones. So when her teenage daughter was eager to see the hottest tour of the summer, Taylor Swift, Turner was sure she could score a few seats to one of the star’s two Detroit shows.
First she tried using her credit card’s presale access to tickets — usually a dependable method. But with so many Swifties also on the hunt, she had no luck, even after spending hours on the website. “It was so stressful,” she recalls.
Next, she talked to various people offering tickets on Facebook, but she wasn’t convinced they were legit, so she kept looking.
Finally, as the shows neared, Turner found a seller on Craigslist. When she talked to him on the phone, she says, “He sounded very trustworthy, and nice and personable. He didn’t give me any kind of weird vibes or anything.”
Kevin, as he called himself, even offered to send Turner a digital ticket in advance before she paid him, so she could check it out. Sure enough, she soon got a notification on her husband’s iPhone, and downloaded “a very realistic-looking ticket” into the Apple Wallet app — which Kevin claimed he needed to use because he got error messages when he used the Ticketmaster app, the usual method.
Satisfied, Turner sent the man a total of $1,200 on an online payment app for four tickets — for her daughter and three friends — for the Friday concert.
But then, on the day of the show, she suddenly started wondering if the deal had been too good to be true. After trying unsuccessfully to verify the tickets online, she finally drove to the stadium box office. That’s where she got the bad news. “Unfortunately, these are not real,” one of the workers there told her, while also noting that the fakes were “the best we have seen.”
Meanwhile, Kevin suddenly vanished, his phone number disconnected.
A growth in ticket scams
It’s the sort of misfortune that many fans of live events are experiencing these days. While comprehensive statistics are elusive, reports of ticket scams (sports, concerts and other events) to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) increased from 13,168 in 2020 to 17,941 in 2021 and then slipped just slightly to 16,762 in 2022, according to BBB spokesman Josh Planos. He notes that the reports probably represent only a fraction of the actual scams.
The scammers take advantage of the fact that paper tickets are being increasingly replaced by digital tickets, which are purchased online, downloaded into a phone app and then presented for scanning at the arena gate.