My daughter fell for a Facebook ticket scam that should worry ALL parents, says our man Toby Walne
Victim: Sophia Walne bought Six Nations tickets but they weren’t sent
It looks like just the ticket to celebrate the end, finally, of all Covid restrictions. But sports fans eager 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 scammers are selling fake tickets for key sporting events such as the Six Nations Rugby Championship. In some cases, they use despicable tactics to persuade buyers to hand over their money – claiming, for example, that they are selling the tickets due to a death in the family or the illness of a child.
My 22-year-old daughter, Sophia, is one of a growing number of people who have fallen victim to such scammers on Facebook – described by one expert as the “new frontier for scammers”.
Taking time out from a busy schedule during her final year at the University of Leeds, Sophia felt a fun weekend in Ireland was in order.
It was only after booking flights for herself and a friend that she realized the Guinness Six Nations rugby tournament was kicking off the same weekend she was going to be in Dublin.
Although it was only three days before she left, Sophia went online to see if she could buy some tickets to see Ireland take on Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
Sophia is quite resourceful – and too wary of online scammers and scams. But the financial pressures of surviving on scant means may have clouded her judgment as she searched for a pair of tickets.
After logging on to Facebook, Sophia visited a public chat group of 19,500 people called “Ticket-Ticket”. She posted a request there asking if anyone had some spare tickets she could buy for the game against Ireland.
She was surprised by the response. Via the Facebook Messenger chat service, she received more than 50 responses.
One fact that immediately struck her was the number of responses with an emotional hook. Tickets were on sale, he was told, ‘due to my daughter’s health’ or ‘my friend lost her mother [with an emoji face crying tears]’. After realizing that some of these responses were being used for ticket sales for other events, she decided to ignore them.
But then Sophia ran into a ticket seller who – in her own words – “looked trustworthy”. A Facebook profile picture of ‘Mike Frazier’ showed a fresh-faced man in a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘world’s best dad’ – and lovingly reaching out to what appeared to be a devoted wife.
He was offering two tickets for £25 each.
As Sophia says: “This photo shook me. He seemed so genuine – especially compared to others where a quick look at their chat history showed that the same unlucky reasons for selling tickets were regularly brought up. In contrast, this particular seller had no sad back story.
Sophia paid for his tickets through 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.
Tickets were supposed to be emailed as e-tickets for use at the turnstile. But e-tickets did not materialize. Sophia says: ‘I immediately smelled a rat because he started to respond with an apology as to why the tickets hadn’t been sent out yet – and said I had to be patient. Having no trace of the tickets, I asked him to refund the money.
Within minutes, the scammer tried another trick by sending my daughter a photo of him appearing to be pressing a refund button.
Unfortunately this was part of his scam as he then claimed that the tickets had in fact been sent and she had to pay again. Sophia says, “He followed up with harassing text messages and a phone message, but he wasn’t getting my money anymore. I sent a message saying I would go to the police.
“He then blocked me from contacting him on Facebook.”
Luckily, having only been cheated out of £50, Sophia and her friend could still afford to drown their sorrows at historic rugby fans’ pub The Swan Bar in Dublin – and enjoy a pint or three of Guinness while Ireland beat Wales. Online ticket scammers are a growing problem for people looking to buy last-minute tickets to sporting events such as the Six Nations Championship.
Martyn James, of complaints service Resolver, said: “Facebook seems to be the new frontier for scammers lurking in specialized group chats, like sports fans looking for tickets.
“The situation is made worse as the social media giants seem to be getting too big for their boots – and think they shouldn’t police who uses its platform.”
Last week, I asked Facebook what it was doing to prevent its website from being used by fraudsters like Mike Frazier.
It read: ‘We are 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.’
He confirmed that he was aware of the sale of counterfeit tickets on his website and was evaluating how to eliminate this practice.
As for Sophia, she will no longer buy tickets via Facebook. Or look benevolently at the men claiming to be the best dad in the world.