Ticket fraud and phishing continue to rise
ONLINE ticket fraud increased by more than half in 2015, amid a general escalation in cybercrime, according to new figures.
More than a quarter of ticket scams (26%) related to major sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup, with tickets to gigs and festivals accounting for a further 15%.
At the same time, we're also seeing an increase in the number of phishing scams in which people are losing money by being tricked into handing over personal details.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) say that they received 96,699 reports regarding phishing scams during 2015.
What's going on?
The potential for being scammed online is almost as old as the internet, though the rise in ticket fraud is relatively new - as are some of the ways people are being defrauded.
Ticket scams often involve people being sold tickets that are counterfeit, or that never arrive.
The national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, Action Fraud, say that the typical loss per victim was £205, though some people have suffered losses running into thousands of pounds.
The problem is that many tickets are worth a lot more money than they used to be.
For example, the cost of a Bestival ticket increased by 124% between 2004 and 2013, while the cheapest match day ticket for games from the Premier League down to League Two has increased in price by 13% between 2011 and 2014.
Because the cost of big event tickets is now often eye-wateringly expensive, they've piqued the interest of scammers hoping to intercept some of the money changing virtual hands.
Tickets for last year's France vs. Italy game at Twickenham were sold for as much as £250, while this year's tickets to see Adele at London's O2 are priced at £330.
Given that this is more than many people really have to spare, it's not surprising that fans who don't have the money are tempted by offers of cut-price tickets sold through non-official channels.
After all, the lure of a bargain robs many of their normal good judgement. Anyone needing proof just needs to look at the run up to Christmas - and festive season fraud has increased for the last three years in a row.
There's also the desperation element. Even for those who can afford expensive tickets, getting hold of one can be next to impossible - this year's Glastonbury tickets sold out in 30 minutes.
Being denied something typically makes us want it even more, usually to our detriment.
Tony Neate, chief executive of fraud awareness group Get Safe Online, says:
"Criminals have captured a market of fans who will do anything to get a ticket. Unfortunately, the nature of ticket fraud means the higher the demand for an event, the higher number of potential victims the fraudsters can target."
Capturing our attention
And the scams themselves are also becoming more complex, with some fraudsters moving into the realm of social media - not previously a place we'd expect to find them.
Action Fraud say that 21% of ticket scams were instigated through Facebook and 6% on Twitter.
Mr Neate says that criminals also use "pre-existing websites or fan forums to help them appear legitimate".
It used to be easier to spot fraudsters using the more traditional approach of mimicking genuine websites, which frequently featured strange grammar, publicly available email accounts, and poorly rendered logos.
Many have raised their game considerably, particularly those involved in phishing scams.
For example, the City of London Police say that one of the top email addresses that phishing emails originate from is "Do-Not-Reply@amazon.co.uk".
These emails are often accompanied by headings encouraging us to take action, such as "Your account has been revoked" or "Important Notification".
While we would normally disregard unsolicited messages, the sheer number of them being sent out means that someone eventually takes the bait.
What to do
The techniques used by fraudsters are continually evolving, though there are some steps we can take to protect ourselves.
Caution is our principle weapon, as much online fraud relies on pressuring us into spending money or revealing our details.
With the festival season - and the end of the tax year - coming up, we should expect scammers to be busy thinking of related ways to defraud us.
There have already been reports of emails purporting to be from HMRC, in which we're encouraged to click on a link which contains malware.
The City of London Police also say that fake emails purporting to be from online payment merchants and utility companies are also common.
Regarding ticket fraud, their advice to sports and music fans is to be "vigilant" when buying tickets.
Chris Greany, the national police lead for economic crime, asks that people "only buy tickets from official sites, and when buying resold tickets ensure that they are buying from vendors who have been approved by the event organiser".
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