Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Saturday, 15 August 2009 10:38 UK

Festivals battle web ticket scams

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Fans at a Festival
Music fans have been warned about buying from unofficial ticket sites

Music festivals believe they are winning the fight against online ticket fraud after joining forces with police to close suspected scam sites.

Thousands of fans were out of pocket last year after their tickets for the Reading, Leeds and V festivals never arrived, or turned out to be bogus.

Those events are coming around again later this month.

Reading and Leeds organiser Melvin Benn said: "The main culprits do appear to have been closed down by the police."

Five thousand fans were turned away from the Reading and Leeds festivals last year because their tickets were not valid, Mr Benn said.

They had paid unofficial websites hundreds of pounds, only to find the e-tickets they received were not accepted at the gates.

Others paid for tickets but received nothing. V, which takes place in Essex and Staffordshire next weekend, experienced similar problems in 2008.

The Metropolitan Police's Central E-crime Unit has shut 11 websites fraudulently claiming to sell UK festival tickets since it launched last September.

Oasis and The Killers are headlining V Festival next weekend

DCI Charlie McMurdie said: "These closures were as a direct result of complaints from [the music] industry and Trading Standards.

"Our activity has been in order to prevent the public becoming victims of crime and make the internet a safe place to trade online for the UK."

Police and major UK festival organisers came together at the first national conference dedicated to tackling such scams earlier this year.

Taking inspiration from efforts to stamp out violence in football, they are sharing information about the people behind suspected ticket fraud as well as other festival crime such as tent theft.

"We've been using the model that football has about intelligence sharing," Mr Benn said. "That system is now paying dividends and we've had some arrests as a result of the information sharing."

'Far better'

Anti-counterfeiting expert Reg Walker, who works with festivals such as Reading, Leeds, V, T in the Park and Isle of Wight, said the current situation was "far better" than last summer.

"This year, everyone's come together to address the issue for the first time ever - the promoters, the police etc.

"That's improved the situation. We're managing to get down the scam sites much faster than ever before and the criminal infrastructure is being dismantled. We've had good successes across the world."

Unless you're buying it from a friend, or you're buying it from the official sites, then just don't buy
Melvin Benn
Reading & Leeds

Last year, fans complained that they had not received tickets from a number of unofficial websites including SOS Master Tickets, and Xclusive Tickets.

It is not a crime to re-sell concert tickets in the UK, and many secondary ticketing websites - which sell on tickets, often for inflated prices - deliver on their orders.

Standard tickets for Reading, Leeds and V Festivals have sold out through official sources. But numerous unofficial sites are still offering them for sale.

V Festival director Bob Angus said: "The organisers of V urge fans to not purchase tickets from unofficial or secondary ticket outlets or auction sites.

"Buying from any unofficial outlets could lead to disappointment."

Official ticket sellers are listed on the festivals' websites. The Reading and Leeds websites also detail unofficial websites that are likely to charge "over the odds for a ticket that will have never existed or might never materialise".

'Do your homework'

Mr Benn said: "Unless you're buying it from a friend, or you're buying it from the official sites, then just don't buy."

Mr Walker said fans should not necessarily trust websites that appear professional.

"Anyone can take anyone else's imagery, put it on a website and with a little bit of basic knowledge you've got a very slick ticketing website," he said.

"You need to check on the official festival website and see what they're recommending. Do your homework. And always, before you buy from a website, check it out.

"Google it, look for feedback - positive or negative - from other people. Don't just throw your money at people that you don't know. It's common sense. If the offer seems too good to be true, it usually is."

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