Six of the most common ticket booking scams to look out for

Booking a ticket for an event? Discover six of the most common booking scams to watch out for – and how to avoid them.

Suddenly found a last-minute ticket to a sold-out show? Tempted by a strangely cheap front-row seat? If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Often, these seemingly ‘perfect’ deals are bait used by fraudsters for ticket booking scams.

Knowing how to spot a scam is crucial when booking tickets online, whether for sports, theatre or music. Google Trend Data reveals that searches for “ticket scams” have surged 29% in the past year, peaking in the summer and festive months.

Searches for “fake tickets” are also up 50%. With this rising concern in mind, the experts at SeatPlan have uncovered the most common ticket booking scams to look out for.

1) Non-existent seats

One of the most notorious scams is the sale of non-existent seats. Scammers will sell tickets for seats they haven’t yet secured, and then use the money from the sale to purchase a much cheaper, less desirable seat.

While you still might get in with a legit ticket, the scammer makes a profit, while you end up with a seat you didn’t want.

How to avoid: Buy from official sources

Whenever possible, buy tickets directly from the event organiser, the venue, or an authorised ticket vendor.

2) Seats far apart from each other

With over 50 productions in the West End this summer, the “scattered seats” scam is one to look out for. Scammers will lure you in with what seems like a great group deal, but when you show up, the ticketed seats are miles apart. Much like the non-existent seat scam, these seats will be far from what you expected!

How to avoid: Check the seller’s reputation

If you’re buying from a reseller or an online marketplace, do some research first. Look for reviews or ratings to see if other customers have had positive experiences – avoid at all costs if they haven’t.

3) Duplicate ticket sales

Duplicate sales are another common scam to look out for. In this scam, the fraudster will sell the same ticket multiple times to different buyers.

This becomes a first-come-first-serve situation, with the ticket only working for the first person using it. Duplicate sales are becoming all the more common since the rise in QR codes on e-tickets.

How to avoid: Use common sense

Listen to your gut. If something feels off, it’s better to miss out on the tickets than to lose your money to a scammer.

4) Fake error messages

Speaking of e-tickets, it’s never been easier for scammers to profit from the ticketing world since moving online. There are a handful of scams to look out for here, with the most popular being fake ‘error’ messages.

When purchasing via a scam, you may come across a misleading ‘error’ message that results in customers being overcharged, charged multiple times, or having their payment information stolen.

How to avoid: Avoid unsecured payment methods

Scammers often ask for payment methods that are hard to trace, like wire transfers, or that don’t offer buyer protection, like cash. Stick to secure payment methods, like credit cards or payment services that offer fraud protection.

5) Social media scams from “normal” accounts

With many people opting to sell their tickets on social media, it’s no surprise that scammers are taking advantage.

Some scammers spend months curating a believable profile before posting about ticket sales at attractive prices. They often pressure potential buyers to act quickly, exploiting the fear of missing out on a good deal or a popular event. Once payment is made, they’ll stop responding and likely delete their account.

How to avoid: Beware of unrealistic prices

If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of tickets being sold significantly below their face value.

6) Don’t forget the classic – fake printed tickets

While most tickets are now digital, some providers still opt for printed tickets. There are, of course, just as many downfalls to this system.

Scammers can create counterfeit tickets that look exactly like the real thing. These fake tickets often appear completely legitimate, featuring correct event details, seating information, and even barcodes. However, once the buyer attempts to use the ticket at the event, they are informed that the ticket is invalid.

How to avoid: Beware of high-pressure sales tactics

Scammers will often rush you into making a decision, especially if the event is in high demand.

When do we need to be most careful?

Unfortunately, wherever money is involved, scammers will lurk.

Theatre tickets tend to be less of a target for scammers as the shows run for longer periods of time, meaning they are not as attractive to scammers. Peak times such as half term and bank holidays can always spike sales so it’s always best to keep your wits about you. 

Music and sporting event tickets are far more susceptible to scams due to the minimal number of shows available. With increased demand, comes increased fraudulent activity.

Photo by Aranxa Esteve