Thousands of dollars lost in concert ticket scheme

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It’s one of the hottest concerts of the summer – Twenty One Pilots tickets are sold out across the country.

Months ago, Lynn O’Neill’s daughter begged her parents for tickets to the show. Lynn’s daughter told her and her husband that they only cost $49.50, so they agreed to buy them.

“My husband went online and it must have been a pop-up,” said O’Neill. “It looked really legit and he thought he was buying tickets for $49.50, hit the final button and that’s when he realized that there were all of these fees that were attached to it.”

The final charge was $1,676.11.

That’s $218 per ticket, plus taxes, and a service charge of $353.16. Lynn asked her credit card company to void the charge, but in a letter, the credit card company explained that they contacted the ticket seller and couldn’t “verify a billing error occurred.”

In the small print online, the ticket seller said all ticket sales are final and the merchant is able to deliver the tickets within one hour of the event.

“I was furious,” said Lynn. “I was really upset. We have no tickets. We have no merchandise. I have nothing yet.”

The Battle

Lynn Singleton, the president of the Providence Performing Arts Center, said he’s been battling third party ticket sellers for years.

“The internet is a blessing, and the internet is a curse,” said Singleton. “In many ways, as far as purchasing a ticket online, it’s like the wild west.”

Singleton added there are several websites that aren’t affiliated with PPAC that sell tickets to PPAC shows, often for three or four times the value of the ticket.

“In many cases,” said Singleton, “They’re buying a ticket for a show we don’t even have on sale yet!”

In Rhode Island, it’s against the law for a seller to charge more than ten percent of the face value of the ticket. But because third party ticket sellers often operate across state lines, the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office says it’s often difficult to prosecute cases.

“It’s unfortunate because it gives our business a bad name,” said Singleton. “You live and die on people returning to your venue, and if they come and they have a bad experience, they don’t come back.”

So Singleton and his team at PPAC regularly monitor third party ticket sellers’ websites.

“If we see somebody who’s using our logo, we will call them, but it can be a full-time job,” said Singleton. “I think at the end of the day the only way that you have any teeth in a law is it has to be a federal law.”

Larry Lepore, the general manager at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center said he agrees that a federal law is necessary to crack down on ticket sellers who are overcharging and under delivering.

Lepore added there are ticket issues at almost every single show because of third party ticket sellers, and just like PPAC, the Dunk monitors those websites regularly.

Protect Your Money

Paula Fleming with the Better Business Bureau said there are ways to protect yourself from third party sellers who charge huge fees. She said the most important thing you can do is read the fine print.

“You want to make sure that you’re using a secure website, and you want to make sure they’re not targeting you, meaning if you are interested in purchasing tickets to Mohegan Sun, go directly to the Mohegan Sun website.”

That’s exactly what Lynn did the second time around so her daughter can still enjoy the show.

Over the past several weeks, the Target 12 Investigators called and emailed the third party ticket vendor who received Lynn O’Neill’s money for Twenty One Pilots tickets. 

Thursday afternoon, the company sent us a brief statement saying, “We are a resale marketplace and prices are set by sellers and displayed to customers prior to any purchase.  In this instance, the customer was correctly charged the amount displayed.”

The company claims O’Neill was sent the tickets in March. 

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