My daughter fell for a Facebook ticket sales scam that should worry EVERY parent, warns TOBY WALNE
Victim: Sophia Walne bought Six Nations tickets but they were not sent
It sounds like just the ticket to celebrate the end, at last, of all Covid restrictions.
But sports fans desperate to attend live events rather than sit in front of the TV are being targeted by a new breed of social media scammers.
Using websites such as Facebook, the ruthless crooks are selling fake tickets to key sporting events such as rugby’s Six Nations Championship.
In some cases, they are using despicable tactics to persuade buyers to hand over their cash – claiming, for example, that they are selling the tickets because of a family death or a child’s illness.
My 22-year-old daughter Sophia is one of a growing number of people who have fallen victim to such fraudsters on Facebook – described by one expert as the ‘new frontier for fraudsters’.
Taking time out from a hectic schedule in her final year of study at the University of Leeds, Sophia felt a weekend of fun in Ireland was in order.
Only after booking flights for her and a friend did she realise that the Guinness Six Nations rugby tournament was kicking off the same weekend that she was going to be in Dublin.
Although it was just three days before she was due to travel, Sophia went online to see if she could bag a couple of tickets to see Ireland play Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
Sophia is quite streetwise – and all too wary of con artists and online scams. But the financial pressures of surviving on a shoestring may have clouded her judgment as she sought out a pair of tickets.
Having logged on to Facebook, Sophia visited a 19,500-strong public chat group called ‘Ticket-Ticket’. On it she put out a request asking if anyone had a couple of spare tickets she could buy for the Ireland game.
She was surprised by the response. Via Facebook chat service Messenger, she received more than 50 responses.
One fact that struck her straight-away was the number of responses with an emotional hook.
Tickets were for sale, she was told, ‘due to my daughter’s health’ or ‘my friend lost her mum [with an emoji face crying tears]’. After realising some of these responses were being used for ticket sales to other events, she decided to ignore them.
Facebook seems to be the new frontier for fraudsters who lurk in specialist group chats, such as for sports fans looking for tickets.
Martyn James – Resolver
But Sophia then stumbled upon a ticket seller who – in her own words – ‘looked trustworthy’.
A Facebook profile photo of ‘Mike Frazier’ showed a fresh-faced man in a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘world’s best dad’ – and lovingly linking arms with what seemed like a devoted wife.
He was offering two tickets for £25 each.
As Sophia says: ‘That picture reeled me in. He seemed so genuine – especially compared to others where a quick look at their chat history showed the same hard-luck reasons for selling tickets were regularly trotted out. In contrast, this particular seller had no sad back story.’
Sophia paid for her tickets via PayPal Friends and Family as he requested.
PayPal has a purchase protection policy for customers scammed by a registered company – but the family and friends option is not covered.
The tickets were supposed to be emailed as e-tickets to be used at the turnstile. But the e-tickets failed to materialise.
Sophia says: ‘I immediately smelt a rat because he started responding with excuses as to why the tickets had not yet been sent – and said that I should be patient. With no sign of the tickets, I asked him to refund the money.’
Within minutes, the fraudster tried another trick by sending my daughter a photo of him appearing to press a refund button.
Sadly, this was part of his con as he then claimed the tickets had actually been sent and that she must pay again.
Sophia says: ‘He followed up with harassing texts and a phone message, but he was not getting any more of my money. I messaged back saying I would go to the police.
‘He then blocked me from contacting him on Facebook.’
Fortunately, having only been swindled out of £50, Sophia and her friend could still afford to drown their sorrows at the historic rugby fan pub The Swan Bar in Dublin – and enjoy a pint or three of Guinness as Ireland thrashed Wales.
Online ticket scammers are a growing problem for people looking to buy last-minute tickets for sporting events such as the Six Nations Championship.
Martyn James, of complaints handling service Resolver, says: ‘Facebook seems to be the new frontier for fraudsters who lurk in specialist group chats, such as for sports fans looking for tickets.
‘It is made worse as social media giants seem to get too big for their boots – and think they should not police those who use its platform.’
Last week, I asked Facebook what it was doing to stop its website being used by fraudsters such as Mike Frazier.
It said: ‘We’re sorry to hear that people have been misled in this way. We do not allow fraudulent activity on our platform and have removed the account brought to our attention.’
It confirmed it was aware of fake tickets being sold through its website and was assessing how to stamp the practice out.
As for Sophia, she won’t be buying tickets through Facebook again. Or looking kindly on men claiming to be the world’s best father.