Taylor Swift ticket scams break fans' hearts as fake resellers take their money

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A Swiftie you know and love could be scammed soon as we edge closer to Taylor Swift's sparkle-packed, back-to-back shows at Ford Field in Detroit.

It's a story that fans in other cities, such as Atlanta and Nashville, can remember all too well.

Swift's Eras Tour kicked off in Glendale, Arizona, in March, hits Detroit on June 9 and June 10, moves on to spots like Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Cincinnati and elsewhere, and ultimately runs into August in Los Angeles. The scammers love it.

One teen in the Atlanta area, unbeknownst to her parents, lost about $350 when she bought two fake tickets in a scam that started on Instagram. Her parents asked that her name not be used so scammers don't target her.

A huge fan since age 5, the young woman had been commenting on verified Instagram accounts set up by other Taylor Swift fans, known as Swifties. All of a sudden, someone reached out to her directly in January about tickets for sale. The seller even showed her proof with a screenshot of Taylor Swift tickets for one of three Atlanta concerts, which ran April 28, April 29 and April 30, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

It sounded like the real deal.

The teen did not realize that the screenshots of the tickets could be easily faked. She ended up sending money via Venmo and CashApp, as the seller kept requesting more money, including a fake $85 fee to transfer a Ticketmaster ticket to her. As more fees kept being added on, the high school student realized something wasn't right.

Suddenly, the seller who had her money wasn't able to talk to her.

"She ghosted me for like a week," the young woman told me by phone. The seller claimed she had dropped her phone in the toilet and it was no longer working. Whatever. By this point, the buyer knew it was a scam.

Like many fans, she didn't just want to go see a concert for a flashy show. She wanted desperately to see an old friend, someone whose words helped her get through tough times in her young life, someone she felt like she kind of grew up with over the years. "Her music, it touched something in me," she said.

And while oddly enough things turned out OK in the end, she's still sort of bitter about the scammers and the fact that she never got to see Taylor Swift in person. In a very strange twist, someone she met online later on TikTok gifted her one Taylor Swift ticket to a Nashville concert — which she couldn't go to but was able to sell to another Swiftie via a reseller on Twitter for $475. That fan even sent her video of the concert and it all worked out smoothly. Sort of.

1252814079.jpg NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 06: Fans wait in line outside of Nissan Stadium ahead of artist Taylor Swift's second night of performance on May 6, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of fans traveled from across the country for Swift's three night stop in Nashville as her Eras Tour continues. Fans attending the concert dressed according to their favorite Taylor Swift eras before the three hour show, featuring 44 of Swift's songs from her last 10 albums. (Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images)

Scammers know all too well why the Swifties need to be there.

On Friday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned fans that they could end up paying up to $2,500 for tickets that don't exist or never arrive.

The Better Business Bureau has reportedly received almost 200 complaints nationally, ranging from struggles getting a refund to outright scams, related to the Swift tour, according to the AG's office.

The AG's office suggests: "If you are unfamiliar with a particular ticket vendor, you can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Team at 877-765-8388." You can ask if the AG's office has any complaints on file regarding that seller. But the office warns that "the absence of filed complaints does not guarantee a seller's legitimacy; it simply means that we have not received any complaints concerning the vendor."

More: Taylor Swift and Detroit: The story of a budding star and her early, key Motor City links

A fan in Columbus, Ohio, saw $690 vanish via Venmo in late May when trying to buy three Taylor Swift tickets from someone named Dawn on a Facebook moms group, according to a report made to the Better Business Bureau's ScamTracker. The seller provided pictures of her tickets. After the money was sent, the seller deleted her Facebook account and blocked the fan on Facebook.

A New Jersey fan lost $750 in May after spotting Taylor Swift tickets via another Facebook group. The buyer trusted the seller because members of the group must be verified. What she didn't realize was that the real account had been hacked. The money was sent via the peer-to-peer payment app, Zelle. The fan never got the tickets, according to a report made to the BBB.

Another Swiftie reported losing $2,500 for three tickets, sending money via Zelle, according to the AARP Fraud Watch Network. The fan received digital tickets, but the fake tickets wouldn't scan at the gate.

Taylor Swift performs during her Reputation Stadium Tour at Ford Field on Aug. 28, 2018 in Detroit.
Taylor Swift performs during her Reputation Stadium Tour at Ford Field on Aug. 28, 2018 in Detroit.

We know you really, really, really want to go to see Taylor Swift. But the scammers really, really, really want your money.

More: Taylor Swift 'Eras Tour' concerts in Detroit this weekend: Everything you need to know

More: Taylor Swift coming to Ford Field: Concert tickets fetching $1,000+ in resale market

Why ticket scams just won't quit

The thing is that this isn't the only hot ticket so it's wise to pay attention to event-related scams. Beyoncé is coming to Ford Field in Detroit on July 26. Madonna will play her first Michigan homecoming show in eight years on Aug. 5 at Little Caesars Arena.

Con artists swindle people for big names and big games, and events. One consumer, according to the BBB ScamTraker report, lost $550 on tickets for the French Open tennis tournament, also known as Roland-Garros. The tickets never arrived.

Just a thought: Clip and save this column for the future. It might even help — cross your fingers — if Detroit Lions fans are hunting online one day for Super Bowl tickets.

Scammers play into the hype

Why scammers pitch fake tickets: Many fans are eager to get their hands on tickets to sold-out events, especially after a slump in major tours after the pandemic. Even sky-high ticket prices aren't scaring people off, if they really want to see a much-loved artist like Taylor Swift, who told a sold-out concert in East Rutherford, New Jersey, "I really, really missed you!"

"They feel like it's OK to splurge a little bit," said Teresa Murray, who directs the Consumer Watchdog office for U.S. PIRG, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Taylor Swift, from left, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner accept the award for album of the year for "Folklore"at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday, March 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Taylor Swift, from left, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner accept the award for album of the year for "Folklore"at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday, March 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Scammers, Murray noted, often need to create a sense of urgency to get people to suspend skepticism even for a few seconds. If you think those tickets being offered online could be soon sold to someone else, you're going to jump at that chance to buy them.

The young fan in Atlanta didn't realize that scammers can easily manipulate consumers, send fake pictures and impersonate well-known businesses or other fans.

Fake tickets, of course, can trigger real heartbreak. Sometimes, a scam artist will have real tickets — and send the same picture to you and everyone else over and over again — as part of the same scam, Murray warned.

More: Is the IRS really texting you? No, it's one of many tax scams.

More: Consumers can get money back in some Zelle-related scams but which ones?

More: Sharing Facebook post about lost pet could put you, friends at risk of scam

Remember, con artists have been hard at work for months — and in various markets all across the country — to figure out ways to snatch hundreds or thousands of dollars at a time by selling fake tickets.

If you're lucky enough to snag tickets, don't post pictures of them: According to an FBI warning, the barcode found on most tickets is a "goldmine for scammers." The scammer might be able to use that information to get into the event without paying or copy the information and sell more fraudulent tickets to unsuspecting buyers.

The FBI says: "Consumers should protect ticket barcodes as they would credit card numbers."

Ticketmaster notes online that when someone resells a ticket, the name on the ticket is the name of the original purchaser. "You’ll still be able to enter the event; it’s the barcode that’s needed for entrance."

Choose a safe payment method

Don't pay for tickets with a Target gift card, Zelle, Venmo, Bitcoin ATM or debit card: Consumer watchdog groups note that several ticket-related scams, as with other scams, take advantage of payment methods where consumers lose cash quickly.

Yes, some consumers reportedly paid for some fake concert tickets with Target gift cards, according to watchdogs. "Ticketmaster will never ask you to purchase a Ticketmaster Gift Card or any type of third-party gift card to use as a form of payment for tickets," according to a warning from Ticketmaster.

While it's OK to send money to friends via payment apps, don't send money this way to strangers.

One other sign: The young woman in Atlanta noted that the scammers told her that she shouldn't mark the sale as one for "goods and services." That should be a clue right there, the teen now warns others.

Under such a plan, a consumer might be covered if the transaction doesn’t go as expected but that doesn't work on all sales, either. Restrictions apply, including making a deposit on an apartment or buying concert tickets from users you do not personally know.

When buying a good or service with Venmo, the transaction must be marked as a purchase before hitting send on the payment. Before paying, the consumer should review the “eligible items covered by purchase protection” found under the “Pay” button. You'd want to buy from approved business accounts.

On June 5, a consumer in Philadelphia told the BBB about almost being scammed out of $1,200 for four Taylor Swift tickets. The person who was selling the tickets claimed she uses her niece's Venmo "under the handle @rachelraae."

The scammer also said, "Don’t turn on purchase when sending." Venmo notes online that scammers will often ask you to not mark the payment as a purchase. "When you tag a payment to a personal profile as a purchase, your payments for eligible items will be covered by Purchase Protection, and you can contact us afterward if something goes wrong," Venmo stated.

Even so, Venmo recommends online that you don't pay for tickets from strangers via a Venmo account.

The consumer in Philly became suspicious and didn't send money. She later Googled the phone number and found another person was scammed from this number for Taylor Swift tickets.

If you have a credit card, many times you want to use your credit card to buy online — again, if you believe that the seller is legitimate. You do not want to be reading your credit card number over the phone to a scammer or entering it online at a sketchy site.

Scammers can use low-price tickets to trick people into entering their credit card information, according to a BBB alert. Scammers will then use your credit card number to buy big-ticket items. You never receive your ticket.

In general, you can dispute fraudulent charges and have better odds for getting your money back, if you use a credit card.

Watch out for lookalike sites: Many times, a search for tickets by first doing an internet search for a spot like Ticketmaster or StubHub, could land you at a far different site, according to a BBB warning. Consumers are advised to take an extremely close look at the website’s URL to spot misspellings. Impostors create lookalike websites with domain names that play off well-known business names.

Deal with secure websites that begin with “HTTPS” and have a “lock” symbol on the address bar.

Another key tip: Ticketmaster does not have resale tickets at its site for Taylor Swift concerts in Detroit or elsewhere. Resale tickets for the Eras Tour have not been available at all on Ticketmaster.

Use extra caution buying tickets sold on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or other free online listings, according to the BBB. Scammers know how to provide realistic tickets and fake receipts.

If a T. Swizzle ticket is priced at $100, it's likely too good to be true

Bargains, a no go: No one, repeat no one, is going to underprice Taylor Swift tickets. If someone starts messaging you by saying "Hey girl," the young consumer in Atlanta warns, expect that it's a message from a scammer. Scammers, she said, have an odd demeanor.

And $350 for two tickets? Probably not. On Monday, you could find Taylor Swift tickets for the Detroit concert selling for $1,200 to nearly $6,000 each on StubHub.

Six-digit code spells trouble: Con artists who are supposedly selling tickets — or even renting out a vacation home or selling a car — might say they need to send you a code to verify your identity, according to PIRG's Murray. They claim there's a lot of scammers out there and they need to know you're real.

It’s usually a six-digit code that's being generated elsewhere — and one you're going to need to read back to the seller so they can use it for a scam. Don't do it.

In some cases, they can use the code to set up "Google Voice" account in your name and use that phone number to scam people, in your name. How sweet.

Contact personal finance columnist Susan Tompor: stompor@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @tompor.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Taylor Swift ticket scams: How to avoid reseller fakes last minute