Nearly 5 million people a year pay for tickets to concert, sporting events and theme parks that prove to be fakes. Buying from classified ads on Craigslist, eBay or ticket-selling websites that appear to be legitimate but are anything but can leave you empty handed.
"The scheme developed when suspects utilized modern resources like Craigslist and other classifieds to post advertisements for tickets on line," warned U.S. Postal Inspector Keegan Martin.
Once a buyer purchases those tickets, they have no idea they've bought into a scam.
"The suspect would actually provide them with a confirmation number and a tracking number so they could follow their tickets," explained Martin.
But those numbers were useless and the tickets were fakes. Mounting complaints led postal inspectors to the home of the two main suspects in this case; James Williams and Anthony Johnson.
Inspectors say the door was barricaded and Williams was trying to destroy evidence - even trying to flush their records down a toilet.
"We found shredded pieces of paper all around the room. He attempted to take his computer, pour water on it and throw it out the back window," said Martin.
Inspectors caught the bad guys. Here is their advice on how to avoid this scam:
- Use well-known sites like Stubhub or Ticketmaster. Prices may be a little higher than Craigslist or eBay, but tickets are authentic and guaranteed.
- Before clicking "buy" on a vendor's website, type the site into a search engine and see what results come up. That could lead you to complaints from past customers who were ripped off.
"Verify," warned Martin. "It would have saved a lot of victims time by just doing a quick Google search to see if the company even existed."
Postal inspectors also suggest buying tickets with a credit card or PayPal account. They offer more protections against unfair or unauthorized charges than do debt card transactions.
Meantime, James Williams was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay back $78,000 to victims. His co-defendant, Anthony Johnson, was sentenced to 7 years in prison and $66,000 in restitution.