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Cleveland area BBB warns about phony events, fake tickets as people return to live entertainment venues

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Like the rest of the world, you’re probably ready to get back out on the town - go out to eat and attend fun events without as many COVID restrictions.

However, our partners at the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad are warning that people should be careful what they buy tickets to and where they buy them.

Sue McConnell with Cleveland’s local Better Business Bureau is warning people that scammers are capitalizing on the demand for entertainment these days.

And, 19 Investigates even found examples of events happening right here in Cleveland that’s organizers that may be questionable.

“We’re all looking forward to getting back on track, McConnell said. “These events are getting our attention.”

McConnell pointed out an event right here in Cleveland that the Better Business has red-flagged. There’s a Margarita Crawl is advertised for this October, but the event page says the venue has yet to be announced.

The BBB said it is monitoring the event to see whether it goes on because the organizer who posted it has an F rating with the BBB.

“They have 62 complaints filed against them and 23 of them the company never answered,” McConnell said. “So, when we see a record of a company not even responding, that’s not a good sign.”

Most of the complaints against the company are about canceled or misleading events with no refunds.

19 investigates reached out to the company and got an automated response blaming COVID for rescheduling problems.

Another twist on the growing ticket scam, McConnell says, is that con artists will post fake tickets to real events.

“They will sometimes put links in the comments of the real event telling you they have the tickets and make it look like the real event and when you click on it you are going to a scam site and paying for tickets that don’t exist,” she said.

If you are an event organizer, the BBB recommends you turn off comments on your social media posts to avoid having a scammer post and steal away fake ticket sales.

The BBB posted the following advice when booking tickets:

How to Spot a Fake Festival

  • Research before you buy. Search online for the name of the festival and make sure the name advertised matches the website. Scammers often use names that sound similar to those of real festivals.
  • Check for (working) contact information. Be sure the festival website has a real phone number and email address.
  • Watch out for prices that sound too good to be true. There is no way a festival can offer tickets at extremely low prices without losing money. If the prices are much lower than elsewhere, it’s likely a scam.

What Can You Do?

  • Pay with a credit card. You can dispute the charges if the business doesn’t come through. Be wary of online sellers that don’t accept credit cards.
  • Look for secure sites. The website should begin with https (the extra “s” is for secure) and have a little lock symbol on the address bar.
  • Avoid tickets sold on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other free online listings. Scammers are skilled at providing realistic tickets and fake receipts. Check out third-party ticket sites at BBB.org before making purchases.

“The scammers are lying in wait for us to use a phony site to try and book airfare, tell us we can rent a house that they don’t own, tell us we can get a great deal on a rental car that doesn’t exist and the festivals just fall in line with that,” McConnel said.

If you believe you are the victim of a scam like this, you should report it to the BBB Scam Tracker, and to our Partners at the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad.

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