On my personal blog, I have written about the problem of ticketing websites that masquerade as legitimate performance venues and either sell fake or highly marked up tickets. I have to say that Google seems to have addressed the problem of resellers and scam sites appearing in search results before the real venue. For example, if you search for Bill Maher Atlanta today, the Fox Theatre is the first result. On Bing, it is the fifth or six result. I tried this for a handful of cities across the country.
In any case, a new scam seems to have risen in the comments sections of performing arts venue social media pages. It appears that groups are using bots to populate comments sections of event posts with messages offering tickets due to conflicts and emergencies.
What often gives these accounts away is that they are newly created, indicate the person lives 2000 miles from us and work at a company in another country thousands of miles away from there. Though there are also some accounts with longer histories that appear to have been hijacked.
For us, the posts offering tickets due to emergency start slowly about three weeks before an event and then become a flurry during the week of the event. I know we aren’t the only ones being hit by this because I see similar posts popping up on the social media accounts of other organizations.
While people can have legitimate emergencies, the big tip off is when they collectively, and sometimes individually, offer more tickets than have actually been sold.
For example, I screen captured these for a movie we were charging $5 to see. At the time, we only had 16 tickets pre-sold. From these alone, if you assume two ticket for those that don’t specifically say how many they have available, there are 54 ticket for sale. There were quite a number we deleted before I started saving them for this post.
The simple solution to all this is to turn off commenting on your posts or require every comment to be approved first.
The problem is, you want your social media comment section to be a place where people talk about how excited they are to see a show, tag a friend suggesting they attend together, ask questions that others may share, etc,. You will also want to employ different types of engagement strategies via your social media presence. (Though Facebook is actively working to suppress engagement baiting that requests people to tag, like, share, comment, vote.) Stifling the conversation doesn’t help you build investment and trust.
If you have the staffing to do it, you can monitor your social media presence to delete these as they are posted (though many pop up overnight).
One thing you don’t want to do is ignore it. If people show up to your door with fake tickets, you have to personally deal with the uncomfortable situation. It is almost better for this to happen because you have an opportunity to repair the negative association with your organization by addressing it directly.
If people send their credit card information to someone that posted on your social media page and they don’t receive tickets, but have thousands of dollars charged to their credit card, you may never know it happened but there is a negative association with your organization because it was posted the social media page of a trusted institution.