Thursday, February 28, 2008

Concert Tickets Allegedly Being Swiped by Hackers

Anyone who has ever tried to get tickets for a highly anticipated concert or sporting event knows that it's next to impossible. You visit TicketMaster only to find out that the tickets are sold out within minutes of being on sale; or that the only ones left are "obstructed view". The sad truth is that unless you know someone who knows someone, it's pretty darned difficult to get event tickets at all. But is this because they really, legitimately sell out to regular fans?

My guess, and the results of a recent CBC investigation, think not. At any event venue, you'll likely find loads of guys screaming at the top of their lungs that they have tickets...albeit at a severely inflated price. You might also hear stories about someone who managed to get tickets online at, once again, severely inflated pricing. How do these people get tickets? And, more important, how do they manage to do so before a real fan even has the chance? CBC's investigation into the issue revealed some very interesting results that led back to a new breed of computer hackers.

According to the study, hackers have discovered a way to bypass entering that weird four or five character "confirmation" code that proves you're a human person and not a spam program. In doing so, they're able to robotically purchase hundreds and hundreds of tickets before a regular fan can even load the site's homepage! What do they do with all these tickets? Sell them to "scalpers" or third-party ticket selling sites, of course, who in turn jack up the pricing, and put parents in debt just to take their kids to see Hannah Montana.

Should mom or dad really have to pay $1,000 for a pair or tickets to a "tween" show; or should a die-hard hockey fan have to pay three-times the price of a ticket because he can't get tickets from TicketMaster? There's no question that it's just not fair.

Who should take responsibility for cleaning up this issue in Canada? Should it fall on Ticketmaster, which is argubly the largest ticket seller in the country? Law enforcement? The promoters or event producers?

Even beyond the illegal or "shady" resellers, it just doesn't make sense that a major fan can't get a concert ticket, yet a local radio station is giving away tickets every hour on the hour. Isn't the whole point of an event to cater to the tried and true fans, and not the people with the deepest pockets and lucky dialing fingers?

One could argue that a "real" fan would be willing to fork over three-times the price for a ticket anyway. But shouldn't he at least have a fair shot at purchasing the tickets at the regular price first? Absolutely. Hopefully CBC's investigation will shed some well-needed light on this ongoing issue.


Anonymous said...

I think the solution is to limit purchases to 5 tickets or maybe 10. And names that constantly show up order 10 or more, are blocked and asked to call in.

Maybe for ticket amounts over 10 to the same credit card number, you have to call in?

Marketnews - Christine Persaud said...

Hi anonymous,

Although your idea sounds great, I'll bet that these guys have really advanced systems that would allow them to make 10 purchases of 10 tickets each using 10 different credit card numbers faster than one of us could pick up a phone and dial a number to order them.

Perhaps the only way would be to restrict ticket sales to pick-up and purchase in person only. Wouldn't that be funny if we moved backward from automating processes to dealing with a human again for the sake of security!