NY nabs 'ticket bot' scams

ALBANY -- The state is cracking down on illegal ticket resales.

About $4.2 million in settlements was reached on Thursday between the state and six ticket brokers for illegally purchasing and reselling event tickets, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Since 2011, five of the six brokers used "ticket bots" -- programs that can beat the public to ticket sales -- to illegally purchase hundreds of thousands of tickets through websites like Ticketmaster to resell throughout the state.

The brokers then resold the tickets at higher profits to consumers through sites like StubHub and Vivid Seats, Schneiderman said.

“Unscrupulous ticket resellers who break the rules and take advantage of ordinary consumers are one of the major reasons why ticketing remains a rigged system,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

Under the settlements, the brokers will have to obtain licenses to resell the tickets, refrain from using ticket bots and pay the penalties to the state.

Instances of illegal ticket sales included several major shows upstate, according to Schneiderman's office.

They included 2014 Bruce Springsteen concert at the Times Union Center in Albany; a 2014 Luke Bryan concert at the Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua, Ontario County; and the Rolling Stones’ 2015 concert at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.

Of the six companies, Prestige Entertainment ran one of the largest operations in the country and will have to pay the largest fine: nearly $3.4 million, Schneiderman’s office said.

Prestige used at least two different bots and thousands of credit cards and Ticketmaster accounts to purchase tickets for New York shows. The company also bought IP addresses from online proxy services in attempts to avoid bot detection, the settlement states.

In 2014, Prestige was able to buy 1,012 tickets to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden in one minute.
Besides for Prestige Entertainment, four other companies: Presidential Tickets, Concert Specials, Fanfetch and JAL Enterprises, LLC (d/b/a Top Star Tickets) of Massachusetts each sold tickets for New York-based events without obtaining the required license, Schneiderman said.

The fifth company, BMC Capital Partners, Inc. of New York was also charged with using bots to purchase tickets.
Payments to the state include: $480,000 from Concert Specials, $125,000 from Presidential Tickets, $95,000 from BMC Capital, $85,000 from Top Star Tickets, and $5,500 from Fanfetch.

In a report last year, Schneiderman's office found that Ticketmaster has estimated that 60 percent of the most desirable tickets for shows are sold by bots.

Additionally, tickets sold by brokers are typically marked up by about 49 percent the initial cost; meaning that a ticket, which was initially $100, will be resold for $149.

Since the reports' release, settlements totaling $7.1 million have been reached with 15 different businesses, Schneiderman said.

New York last year bolstered its laws to fight ticket bots.

Last November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure that makes it a misdemeanor to use software or a computer-aided device to purchase tickets from Ticketmaster and other retail outlets only to turn around and sell them for a profit.

Under state law, tickets to any place of entertainment cannot be resold without the required license.

If an individual or company resells five or more tickets without the license, they can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, and brokers who resell tickets online must provide a hyperlink to the copy of their license as well as the face value of the ticket and the resale price.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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