Cover Story: Fooled by fake tickets

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Better Business Bureau is warning fans about fake tickets to Carolina Panthers games.

It's a problem we covered extensively last week, now it's happened again.

At least a seventh victim has reported buying $500 worth of tickets that were later discovered to be fraudulent. The man told Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police that he bought the tickets from someone at the corner of South Mint Street and South Graham Street.

Counterfeit tickets aren't just a problem for football fans.

Any event where there's a ticket involved and the demand exceeds supply you can find fakes.  From Panthers tickets to concerts even Disney on Ice.

The minute the venues come up with a "fool proof" the scammers find a way to beat it.

"Tickets? Got two tickets."

You can't go to an event without seeing them.

Concerts.  Plays.  Big games.

They're back at the Panthers games.  It wasn't so much of a publicized problem last year when the team was terrible but there's excitement surrounding the Panthers' rookie quarterback Cam Newton right now.

Two weekends in a row fans got the big-game ticket and wound up with a big fake.

Tom Bartholomy is president of the Better Business Bureau of the Southern Piedmont.

"Anything that has a bar code on it has an opportunity to be faked," he says.

Sporting and entertainment venues went to bar coding a decade ago to try to fend off fakes.

The concept is simple.  Each ticket has a unique code.  Once that code is scanned at the gate anyone else who tries to get in using a ticket with that code is flagged.

It'll also kick out tickets with made-up codes.

With the internet you can now buy tickets on line websites like StubHub and RazorGator - both reputable sites.

But on sites like eBay and Craigslist (that aren't guaranteed) or buying from those who scalp on the street a scammer can offer a ticket with a barcode that looks real or a ticket that's been copied over and over.

"That's one of the troubling things about just printing out an on-line ticket is that you can print out 20 of them.. They don't know that.. only one is going to let you in the door," says Bartholomy.

The BBB says the secondary ticket market (which includes online as well as on the street) is now a $10 billion a year industry.  It's exploded 10 fold just in the last few years.

Fans have grown leery and some won't buy like they used to.

Will sporting and entertainment events ever get to the point of not issuing printed tickets?

Experts believe the industry will eventually go to paperless like the airlines have.

With a barcode downloaded to your smart phone which you can have scanned at the gate.

"I would say within two to three years you're going to see most venues making that available," says the BBB's Bartholomy.

Airlines are already using smart phones as a way you can check in at the gate.  It's still a relatively small number, only about one-to-two percent, but it is happening.

Police have stepped up patrols at Panthers games.

Cops will step in and make an arrest (as they did last week) if a fan can point out the individual who sold the fakes.

Experts say beware of more fake tickets being sold.  The next two home games (Panthers vs. Saints and Panthers vs. Redskins) are sell outs, and experts say the number of fake tickets rises when the demand exceeds supply.

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