6 Tips for Preventing Ticket Fraud

Protect your ticket-based business by taking the time to put policies and procedures in place to discourage fraudulent activity.

Whether you’re hosting a special event at your restaurant or work in a ticket-based industry, such as a zoo, concert venue or botanical garden, dealing with counterfeit tickets can be a nightmare for your business.

According to Maureen Andersen, president and CEO of the International Ticketing Association, “Fraudulent tickets are a black eye for the entire industry. Passion and enthusiasm for an event can really contribute to this problem — there are times when people will go to just about any length to get a ticket.”

Maureen-Andersen

“Selling copies of print-at-home tickets is fraudulent. With today’s sophisticated printing technology, you can take a ticket, make a copy, doctor it up and sell it.” -Maureen Andersen (Photo: Maureen Andersen)

Andersen shared her advice for businesses selling tickets to help minimize their risk of exposure to ticket fraud.

Define what ticket fraud means for your organization

The first step in avoiding counterfeiting is to determine your individual business’ criteria for fraud.

Ticket fraud can cover anything from completely falsified event passes to legitimate event passes not purchased directly from your business or a sanctioned partner, Andersen explained.

It’s completely up to you to determine how strict or lenient you want to be when managing ticket fraud, so defining what that means for your business will provide a good starting point when creating policies and procedures around the issue.

Craft policies that mitigate your risk

Once you’ve determined exactly what defines a legitimate versus and illegitimate ticket, craft policies that will help safeguard your business against the most common fraudulent practices. Andersen advised starting with ticket delivery options.

“Selling copies of print-at-home tickets is fraudulent. With today’s sophisticated printing technology, you can take a ticket, make a copy, doctor it up and sell it,” she explained. “The trend today is leaning towards mobile delivery. Almost everybody has a phone in their pocket, so it’s important to have this type of technology in place. It will also help you know who is in a seat, who owns the ticket, and can invalidate the access code in situations where fraud is identified or suspected.”

Related: How and Why to Set Up Mobile Payments at Your Small Business

Also consider “ticketless” tickets, she said. Instead of receiving a physical pass, this paperless option ties the ticket to the purchaser’s personal information, found in their credit card chip. This technology has been used by some movie theatres, where customers can purchase a ticket online then simply dip or swipe their credit card of choice to gain entry to the show upon arrival.

Other considerations that can help prevent ticket fraud would be requiring a valid photo ID for roll-call pickups or providing customers with a last-minute or lottery-sales option.

“Many organizations have achieved success with this strategy instead of simply releasing tickets for sale. It shows customers that there is still a chance to get a seat after a show is sold out,” said Andersen.

Provide a legitimate means for ticket transfer

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Transferring tickets is important to customers, so come up with easy-to-use transfer policies. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

While ‘scalping’ is a common fraud technique, keep in mind that consumers often have legitimate reasons for needing to transfer their tickets. For whatever ticket delivery method you use, be sure it provides customers with a valid way of transferring their event pass to another person.

When thinking through your transfer policies, also consider season ticket holders and other stakeholders who have early access to seats, said Andersen. If you plan to allow for these situations, you must have an approved way to handle these scenarios when these situations arise.

In your policy, also include instructions for ticket returns and cover under what circumstances refunds will be honored.

Related: 10 Tips for Crafting an Effective Return Policy (and Enforcing It)

Create a plan for how you’ll deal with fraudulent tickets

So what should you do when a fraudulent situation is discovered?

“Have a top-to-bottom strategy on what to do and how you will mitigate the situation when it happens — because it is going to happen,” said Andersen.

Your plan will likely depend on how prevalent the problem is for your business. For local art gallery or community event, ticket fraud may be so infrequent that it makes more sense to accept a loss and honor the illegitimate ticket, rather than turn somebody away. Just be sure to explain the situation to the customer and instruct them on the proper way to buy or transfer a ticket to avoid an issue in the future.

For larger, ticket-based organizations, where ticket fraud is a more significant problem, you may want to take a more proactive approach — such as actively searching databases and sales records for red flags. And because ticket sales involve a money transfer, make sure you understand your payment processor’s policies and procedures on disputed charges.

“If you are proactive and plan, you and your staff will know exactly what steps to take when you encounter a fraudulent ticket. Hiding from it and ignoring it will not make it go away.”

Related: How to Deal With Copycat Competitors

Choose secondary market partners carefully

Many organizations choose to use a third-party partner like StubHub, VividSeats or Ticketmaster to help extend their sales reach. If you choose to use one of these services, make it easy for consumers to know which ones are officially sanctioned partners with your business. If not, make sure you have policies and procedures for identifying and dealing with offenders of this policy, said Andersen.

“There is no right or wrong answer, but it is important to identify and outline your organization’s philosophy on this.” -Maureen Andersen

“There is no right or wrong answer, but it is important to identify and outline your organization’s philosophy on this.”

Educate consumers

Internal policies and procedures are important to have, said Andersen, but customer education is vital.

“Think about how you are going to educate your consumers regarding the differences between a legitimate and a fraudulent ticket. Do you have information on your website for customers?”

Ensuring your customers understand your ticketing policies and know what to watch out for will help them avoid scams and make better spending decisions. You can also advise them to review advice from the Better Business Bureau for buying event tickets. Putting their interests first will help build trust with your brand, so they’re more likely to purchase directly from you in the future.

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