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Big events inspire big ticket scams, but one company is fighting fire with digital fire.

By now, it’s a familiar experience to anyone buying tickets to a concert or other live event: you log on and try to grab some good seats, only to be frustrated by an agonizingly slow web page followed by the announcement that the event is “sold out.” You think your only recourse is to head to a secondary site and pay a lot more than the ticket’s face value — and risk getting scammed by fraudsters selling fake tickets.

One recent study found that 40 percent of all online ticketing traffic is conducted by bad bots,  automated scripts that scoop up tickets so fast no human can compete. These tickets are then resold at a huge markup, freezing out real fans, who then often turn to sketchy sources in desperation and find themselves holding counterfeit tickets with no recourse.

Toughening up ticket safety

Ticketmaster is the world’s largest ticketing marketplace — billions of fans visit their platform every year — and it’s leading the industry to develop solutions to thwart bad actors and get tickets directly into the hands of fans. Ticketmaster is committed to making it as easy and fair as possible for fans to buy tickets safely at the original prices set by the artist, show, or team.

As one example, the company has invested millions of dollars into their industry-leading bot-blocking technology. In 2018 alone, the company blocked 10 billion bots from accessing tickets to live events.

And there’s more light at the end of the on-sale tunnel. Hundreds of tours have now tapped into Ticketmaster Smart Queue, which powers the latest way to shop for tickets to popular events while keeping bots out. The Smart Queue acts a “virtual line,” which helps protect fans and tickets in a more effective way. By layering advanced security measures, monitoring traffic, and adding a virtual line, fans can now view the entire venue and pick the exact seats they want to buy.

But bots are only part of the problem. Ticketmaster has led the industry by banning “speculative tickets,” a practice wherein resellers list tickets (or access codes) for sale before they actually have the tickets in hand — often before they’ve even gone on sale. They’re betting they can get those tickets before real fans do, driving up competition for those seats and thus the prices. Ticketmaster does not allow speculative tickets to be listed, requiring that all tickets offered for sale be validated and linked to specific seats in the venue.

Fighting fraud

Possibly even worse than failing to get tickets to an exciting event is being duped into buying fake tickets. The most recent Super Bowl, for example, saw authorities seize fake tickets worth an estimated $24 million, since printed, cardstock tickets are still utilized for one of the biggest national sporting events of the year.

But technology is helping protect consumers in this arena as well. Ticketmaster Presence, the company’s digital ticketing and venue access control platform, ditches paper tickets that are so easily counterfeited and replaces them with secure digital passes.

Photo: Courtesy of Orlando City Soccer Club

To date, Presence has been installed in more than 500 venues across North America and is on track to be in 700 venues by the end of the year. And the results have been staggering, as fans experiencing ticket fraud has plummeted. One professional sports team saw on average 200-plus fake tickets every match before implementing Presence. Since then, fraud at the stadium is essentially zero.

Buying safe

The key to protecting yourself from fake tickets is to buy from official sources, like the Ticketmaster website or app, the venue website, or the venue’s box office. That way, if the event is canceled or you can’t make it yourself, you have options.

If you are considering purchasing from an unofficial ticketing site, know that it can be risky and there is no guarantee that the ticket you are buying is real. And never buy tickets from someone standing outside the venue.

If you are looking for tickets at the last minute, be sure to check official sites first. Oftentimes, artists and venues will still have tickets available or may put up additional tickets for sale at a later date. Additionally, Ticketmaster provides fans with a secure platform where fans can safely resell their tickets to shows they can no longer attend themselves.

Enhancing the fan experience

For Ticketmaster, enhancing the fan experience is a core component of their business, and the future of the fan experience is going to be digital, secure, and convenient. Ticketmaster’s brand promise includes 100 percent guaranteed tickets and a transparent ticket buying process that lets fans see exactly what seats they’re paying for. The whole point is to ensure that fans, real fans, the people whose passion make these lives events so special, have a great — and safe — time.

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