How I nearly fell for a ticket scam
My desperation to be at a football match meant I almost played into the hands of a scammer.
I nearly had a disastrous start to 2012, when my desperation to be at a football match meant I almost fell victim to a scammer.
Tickets for the game had sold out weeks in advance, and for various reasons I’d missed out on them. I’d even entered competitions to win some, but no joy.
So I thought I’d take a final punt and put an ad on the local sections of free classified ad website Gumtree.
I said I was looking for two tickets in the home end (although I support the away team) as I reasoned the odds were better. I put my mobile phone number on the ad and asked for people who couldn’t attend the game for whatever reason to call me.
To my surprise and delight, within 20 minutes of the ad going live on the site, I had a text: “Hi. I have two tickets for the game. I have had to come up north for a funeral but the tickets are in the glovebox in my car. Let me know if you’re interested.”
I replied, expressing my condolences, and asked how the person would be able to get the tickets to me. I was mindful it was Friday 30th December and the game was on Monday 2nd January, with only a small window (Saturday) to get them posted to me due to the bank holiday.
The person replied: “I can post them today by Royal Mail Next Day Delivery for an extra £6. How much do you want to pay for them?”
Alarm bells start to ring...
I checked the Royal Mail website and indeed the person could post them to me for guaranteed delivery on the Saturday. But the question about how much I wanted to pay had started tiny alarm bells ringing in my mind. Surely the person knew how much the tickets were worth? I tried to call the the number, but it just rang out. So I replied “Face value please. How do you want payment?”
They replied: “Payment in advance. I’ll send you a posting receipt.” My caution increasing, I texted back: “With respect, how do I know you’re genuine? I’ll pay half now and half on receipt.”
Several things were not adding up now – if they were genuine, why hadn’t they called me to discuss this, as I requested? Even if they were really sat in a funeral parlour, they could have popped out to make a five-minute phone call and it would have been sorted.
Why hadn’t they mentioned how much they wanted for the tickets? Wouldn’t it be easy to just send an empty envelope Special Delivery and email me a receipt for that? And why, when they knew they had to go to a funeral, hadn’t they left the tickets with a friend or relative to sell, rather than take them halfway up the country?
A final gamble
So I thought I’d push the envelope (so to speak) one more time. I texted back: “If you can send me a photo of the tickets, I’ll send the money as soon as.” If they’re in the glovebox and the person has any sort of decent mobile phone, I reasoned, they’ll be able to do this quickly, put my mind at rest and get their sale.
An hour went past with no reply, deepening my suspicions, although at this point my desperation to be at the game was still winning the battle. Time was running out if the tickets were to be posted. I texted again: “If you can send me a photo of the tickets, I’ll send all the money now.” A reply came back quickly: “Pay upfront now or no deal”.
I thought long and hard and knew it was a scam. The initial text had come too quickly, all the other things didn’t add up and I didn’t want to start the New Year £60 out of pocket.
I wrote back: “Sorry, they’ll have to stay in your glovebox then.” The reply was brief: “Good luck”. Had I paid up, I suspect those two words might have been written inside an otherwise empty envelope that would have been delivered the following day.
So the lesson is: if you want tickets to a sporting event (there’s the small matter of the Olympics later this year, and although ticket sales are illegal some people are bound to try selling theirs), concert or any other event, be very careful.
If a person won’t speak to you on the phone, that isn’t a good start. If they won’t send a photo of the tickets (although bear in mind they can be faked), that isn’t good either.
Ask questions and be on your guard. If it sounds suspicious, it probably is. There are plenty of scammers out there happy to prey on people, and quite prepared to use an event such as a funeral as cover for their scams.
As for the match, my team lost 3-0. But at least I scored a small victory.