Olympic internet ticket fraud scheme uncovered

August 4th, 2008 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 4 (DPA) Hundreds of sports fans from around the world appear to have been cheated, giving credit card and passport details, and possibly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for what they believed were genuine Olympic tickets. The fraud scheme has reportedly affected Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, Britons and others. Victims are said to include family members of the Australian football team competing at the Olympics.

The BeijingTicketing.com website was offering tickets for Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony for $1,750 and $2,150 Monday, calling the prices “very competitive.”

Tickets for prime events such as swimming were also available at the site which claims itself to be “a secure and reliable ticket agent.”

Attempts by DPA to reach the telephone hotline via the British number listed failed.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) were hoping that a San Francisco judge shuts down the website later Monday because it is believed to be part of a massive ticket fraud operation.

The IOC and USOC July 23 had shut down a similar website, beijing-tickets2008.com.

“Our sympathy goes to them. The IOC is concerned. We always told people to buy tickets from the official (Australian) supplier,” said Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates Monday.

Coates said that the 31,000 official Olympic tickets for Australia sold like hotcakes and that “some folks looking for tickets went elsewhere.

Olympic tickets are only distributed via official national agents or the official online ticket store tickets.beijing2008.cn.

Beijing organizing committee spokesman Sun Weide said Monday that he was not aware of the full details.

“So far I don’t know the details. We always encourage people to go through the regular ticketing channels. We are against ticket sales on the black market.”

The two sites have similar names and their illegal use of Olympic logos made them appear official. Sunday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times quoted several people as saying that they were conned because of site’s sophisticated appearance.

“If I failed to recognize this internet scam, very few other individuals with less of an e-commerce background would have had a chance,” Los Angeles internet businessman David Boctor told the LA Times.

The scam seemingly worked for so long because tickets for big sports events like the Olympics or major football tournaments are commonly mailed only shortly before the start of competition.

However, a close look at BeijingTicketing.com reveals that phrases like “Opening Ceremony Finals Tickets and Opening Ceremony Semi Finals Tickets” as well as “our quite interactive site” should have made users suspicious along with some blatant grammatical errors.

Coates said that Olympians simply did not have the capacity to ckeck for ticket fraud on the internet and that buyers simply needed to be careful.

“We can’t be expected to go over the internet and find sites that are misleading. We don’t have the ability to do that,” he said.

And for those who were conned there is no other way to get tickets.

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