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Sherlyn Sim and Aqil Hamzah
The Straits Times
Feb 6, 2023
When a university student could not get tickets to K-pop boy band Seventeen’s concert in Singapore last year, she scoured online marketplaces for tickets to the sold-out show.
Wanting to be known only as Ms Tan, the 22-year-old was ecstatic to find a third-party seller on Telegram who promised her two VIP tickets and 15 minutes backstage with the boy band for $1,104.
But once she transferred the money to the seller via PayNow, she never heard from him again. She then lodged a police report.
The police told The Straits Times that a total of 136 police reports were made on e-commerce scams involving concert tickets between January and November 2022. This was more than 45 times the number of reports made over such scams in the same period in 2021.
Total losses amounted to at least $111,000 during that period last year, more than 53 times the amount lost in the same period in 2021.
Large-scale physical events and concerts returned only in 2022, after two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Tan said: “I was more disappointed in myself because I took the risk, knowing it could be a scam.
“But the seller did thorough research on the boy band and knew many Singaporean fans were desperately looking for tickets. This made me trust him more because I thought, ‘Why would a scammer know so much about the band?’”
Demand for tickets has soared as concerts by major acts Blackpink, One Republic and Harry Styles take place in post-pandemic Singapore in 2023.
Ms Tan eventually bought the concert tickets through an authorised ticketing agent when more were released a week before the show.
She said: “What I learnt was to always check for ticket and purchase proof and remember that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.”
The police confirmed that Ms Tan lodged a report, and investigations are ongoing.
Another university student, who wanted to be known only as Ms Ong, 20, lost $500 when she tried to buy a pair of tickets from a third-party seller to Japanese composer-conductor Joe Hisaishi’s upcoming concert.
The seller did not send her the tickets and became uncontactable after she transferred the money.
She said: “I thought I was smart enough not to get scammed. But the desperation to get a ticket was great, so I wasn’t thinking very clearly.
“The seller also rushed me to get the tickets and said if I didn’t pay soon, he would ask others to buy.”
Concert organisers said while they have seen third-party sellers reselling their tickets, they encourage the public to purchase tickets only from official authorised ticketing agents.
Mr Ross Knudson, co-owner of LAMC Productions, which recently brought in acts such as Jacob Collier and metal band Lacuna Coil, said: “We encourage people not to buy from sites such as online ticket resellers Viagogo. It is not an authorised seller of our shows, but it always pops up at the top of Google searches, which is very misleading.”
Others try to make more tickets available for fans initially unable to get tickets.
A spokesman for Unusual Entertainment, which recently brought in JJ Lin, Air Supply and Eric Chou, said: “In the event of sold-out shows, we encourage fans to wait, as, whenever possible, we will always try and release more tickets to meet the demand.”
Carousell said it urges users to check a seller’s profile to see if the seller is verified, if the account is newly registered, and if the seller has positive reviews. Users can also arrange for a meet-up to verify if their tickets are legitimate before buying them.
Its spokesman said: “If buyers or sellers are uncomfortable with the proposed arrangement at any point, we urge them not to proceed with the deal and look for an alternative.”
Victims of such scams should immediately report them to Carousell and the police so investigations can be expedited.
Experts said victims may have trouble getting their money back in such scams.
Mr Khelvin Xu, a partner at law firm Rajah and Tann Singapore who specialises in commercial litigation, said that while victims could take action against third-party resellers in such scams, the process would be both costly and time-consuming.
“First, the victim would need to incur the time and legal costs of taking out a court application for a disclosure order against the retail platform. This could easily take months and cost thousands of dollars in legal fees, and in costs payable to the retail platform,” he said.
Upon obtaining an order for disclosure, they would then have to go on to sue the seller, which would incur further costs.
The police said buyers should avoid making advance payments or direct bank transfers to sellers which do not offer buyers any protection.
Instead, they advised buyers to make use of escrow payments, which are released to sellers only upon delivery.
Professor Lawrence Loh, director of the National University of Singapore Business School’s Centre for Governance and Sustainability, said that while such methods were preferable, the onus was on buyers to exercise caution when purchasing tickets from third-party resellers.
He said: “For buyers, it is advisable to transact only with verified sellers or those that have good reviews that do not seem fake.
“Often, buyers tend to get carried away impulsively and fall for the scams even when this is beyond their normal sense of rationality.”