Taylor Swift Tickets Are in High Demand — And Scammers Know It
Despite advances in ticket safety technology, fraud is still a problem for major tours.
Tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour are being protected by some of the most advanced ticketing technology ever created, but it’s done little to stop some Swifties from falling victim to fraud.
With what’s likely to be the year’s most in-demand tour has come a wave of online scams that mix high-tech identity theft with low-tech social engineering to target frustrated fans unable to buy tickets during the initial sale in November. Now ticket prices are going for up to 10-times face value on secondary sites and many fans are desperately looking for more affordable options. That’s also leaving them vulnerable to too-good-to-be-true swindlers selling fake tickets.
Nationwide, consumer fraud was up 30% in 2022 over 2021, according to the Federal Trade Commission, costing consumers $8.8 billion. Fake ticket scams fall under what the FTC labels as “imposter scams,” second in total cost only to investor scams according to the FTC, which notes that individuals aged 30-39 are the most likely to be defrauded in 2023 with social media sites listed as the most common place where fraud occurs. The targeting of Taylor Swift fans and offering cheap tickets the seller doesn’t have (and then disappearing on the buyer after they send over the money) is in part due to enormous publicity around the tour and the huge demand for tickets and low supply.
“Con artists will seize any opportunity to rip people off and as soon as the tours for Taylor Swift or artists Beyoncé or The Cure were even announced, scammers trying to figure out ways to capitalize on people’s desperation to get tickets,” says Teresa Murray, a consumer watchdog with the Denver-based Public Interest Research Group. Murray says her group saw an uptick in forged barcodes, fake websites and spoofs on legitimate sights like StubHub and Ticketmaster popping up hoping to profit off the frenzy around the Eras tour.
Fans who have fallen victim to Taylor Swift ticket fraud often say they are lured into the scam through a post on Facebook, listed on regional group pages from seemingly legitimate accounts offering to sell tickets for an upcoming Swift show below the current asking price on secondary ticket markets.
“When you have people who are desperate [to buy tickets] and vulnerable to fraud, they tend to suspend their common sense and make decisions they wouldn’t normally make,” says Murray, adding that this type of fraud is perpetrated by both “people living in their mom’s basement” and sophisticated criminal groups operating in an organized manner.
What victims do not realize is that instead of talking to person living in their city, they are often talking to a hacker who has recently taken over someone’s Facebook account to appear like a real person with ties in the community. After some back and forth, the scammer convinces the victim to send them money though a cash app like Venmo or Zelle in exchange for tickets that either never arrive or are obvious fakes.
This increase in fraud is happening against a backdrop of transformative technology at Ticketmaster, deployed at a large scale for the Eras tour with the potential to drastically reduce and even eliminate most instances of ticket fraud. Whereas it used to be fraudsters could buy a print-at-home ticket and then sell multiple copies of that, Ticketmaster is now employing its Safetix technology for Swift’s tour and others to issue digital tickets that live exclusively within the Ticketmaster app and are impossible to duplicate in this way. Safetix creates an entire digital ecosystem around the life of the ticket, from its original purchase, through resale and up until the ticket is redeemed on the night of the show. The scam Swift fans describe operates completely outside of that ecosystem, without any protections for consumers.
For scammers, demanding payment upfront is a low-tech way to defeat an otherwise sophisticated security system. The only way to curb this type of fraud, Murray says, is to educate fans on how digital tickets work. Much of Ticketmaster’s consumer education efforts have focused on Swift fans who successfully bought tickets and need to know how to load tickets into their accounts, transfer them to friends and redeem the tickets on show night. While this effort to educate fans is important, it does little to inform fans who were unable to buy during the public sale so that they are better equipped to avoid being sold fake tickets when they attempt to buy secondary tickets
Murray recommends only purchasing resale tickets from official sellers with a clearly visible fan guarantee listed on their site, to only use credit cards (not debit cards) and to match up the seats being sold with a seat map of the venue to verify the seats and rows actually exist.
“Often times the con artists don’t bother to check if the seating section, row and seat numbers they claim to hold tickets for actually exist on a seat map,” Murray says. “A little research on your own might help you determine if the tickets being offered actually exist.”