Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Fake wristbands threaten music festivals

By Simon Atkinson
Business reporter, BBC News

Glastonbury festival-goers wearing wristbands
Wristbands are used to identify legitimate festival-goers

Fraudsters making "highly convincing" fake wristbands are planning to target UK music festivals in 2010, an industry adviser has warned.

Thousands of the fakes are likely to be in circulation next summer, according to Reg Walker from Iridium Security, who works with several major festivals.

He added there was evidence that criminals staged a "test run" in 2009.

There was a threat to public order if large volumes of people turned up at events and were denied entry, he added.

Speaking at the UK Festival Awards and Conference in London on Thursday, Mr Walker said about 100 wristbands had been seized at this year's Reading Festival.

"What's worrying is the quality of the wristband, right down to the barcode. They're highly convincing and virtually indistinguishable from the real item," he said.

'Most serious challenge'

"And when you have hundreds of people all trying to get through the gates, the pressure is on the security staff to let people in. Fortunately they were on the ball in this case."

Mr Walker, who also works with the V, T in the Park and Isle of Wight events, added: "The amount of effort and expense they have gone to, means it is not commercially viable to produce these in their hundreds.

"I believe it was a test run and that next year there is a plan to manufacture them in their thousands.

"One or more of the major festivals is going to get hit unless we deal with this now. This is the most serious problem and the most serious challenge we face in 2010."

Authentic wristbands are often partly made abroad in factories based in China, Germany, Turkey and Austria, but final production is usually done in the UK.

UK Festivals conference
The festivals industry came together to discuss problems and challenges

And while some counterfeiters may have inside information on the design of wristbands, Mr Walker said others simply get one when the gates of a event opens, then "take that apart and copy it, giving them a 24 or 48 hour turnaround time".

Given that most major festivals are sold out, the sale of counterfeit wristbands and tickets does not impact on the revenue of organisers.

But if festival-goers turn up thinking they have valid accreditation to get into an event but are turned away, there could be problems with public order.

"If you have many thousands of people turned away when they have paid £100, £150 or £200, that is where the danger lies," Mr Walker said.

"All your planning relies on knowing how many people you have to deal with. You would need massive resources to try and contain that and stop them gaining entry."

Organisers from the Isle of Wight festival said that in 2007 "one in five" festival goers had turned up with fake tickets.

Counterfeit tickets and wristbands are usually bought from scam websites or touts outside events, while police and organisers consistently warn against using these outlets.

What's worrying is the quality of the wristband, right down to the barcode. They're highly convincing and virtually indistinguishable from the real item
Reg Walker, security expert

But Detective Sergeant Steve Truick of the infrastructure abuse section of the Central E-Crime Unit said it was "very difficult to educate someone who is desperate to get hold of something like a ticket to a sold-out festival".

"When a major festival ends, there's a surge in reports of fraud from people who have been sold counterfeit tickets or non-existent tickets," he said.

Festival promoters said they needed to work together to stop organised crime at their events - which include sales of drugs, theft from tents and pick-pocketing gangs targeting valuable items such as mobile phones and wallets.

"We are rivals when it comes to trying to get bands," said Colin Roger, of Scotland's T in the Park festival.

"But we are not rivals in keeping our industry safe and our customers safe."

And Bestival curator Rob Da Bank called for a "robust" database of criminals known to target the festival circuit.

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