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You've seen and heard them as you walk into a concert or sports event: ticket scalpers. A ticket scalper is someone who buys tickets to an entertainment or sporting event and then turns around and sells those tickets on the street for a higher price. While it's sometimes against the law to scalp tickets, it's usually not illegal for someone to buy tickets from a scalper. However, you are taking a risk by doing business using cash, in the street, with someone you don't know. It is hard to protect yourself from fraud when your dealing with a random street scalper.
Companies who resell tickets are called ticket brokers. Some would argue they are scalpers, as well. However, reputable ticket brokers follow laws, register with the Better Business Bureau and National Association of Ticket Brokers, make you pay with a credit card and take steps to safeguard against fraud. So there is a difference between buying from a street scalper and an online "scalper," even if it hits your pocketbook the same way.
Experts say when buying tickets from a street scalper, try to be familiar with what the ticket looks like so you can spot a fraud, even if you have to politely ask a fellow fan to see their ticket.
It looks like both scalpers and ticket brokers are here to stay because neither show any signs of slowing down. About 30 percent of concert tickets are sold on the second hand market, according to USA Today, who says scalpers and ticket brokers take in more than $1.5 billion a year reselling concert tickets. So make educated decisions when dealing with scalpers and ticket brokers.
While ticket scalping happens almost anywhere this is a venue where tickets can be sold, the laws surrounding the practice vary. About 20 states prohibit ticket resales or require broker licenses. For example, in Mississippi, there are only restrictions on state-owned property and college sporting events; Texas has no restrictions; and Massachusetts says residents cannot sell tickets for higher than face value, including fees plus $2 for tickets to events taking place in Massachusetts. However, ticket brokers licensed by the state are able to charge a fee to cover the expense of getting the ticket.
Yet, no matter what state scalping is taking place in, according to news reports, anti-scalping laws are mostly misdemeanor offenses and are often lightly enforced.
When talking about buying and selling tickets and ticket resale law, you will hear the term "face value" a lot.
Here is a breakdown of how original sellers calculate the cost of face value tickets: face value tickets are the cost of the ticket, plus any service charge plus tax. This is all printed clearly on the ticket. Face value tickets are sold by the original ticket provider. When you buy tickets from a ticket broker or scalper, you will likely be buying them for more than face value so they can make a profit.
eBay.com, a Web site that offers the auction-style trading of various items, has become a popular way for folks to buy event tickets. In fact, according to USA Today, ticket auctions on eBay are growing more than 50 percent a year. Within the last two years, eBay has had 100,000 tickets listed at a time, 90 percent of them for sporting events and concerts.
Buying and reselling tickets on eBay is legal. However, the site takes pains to ensure its users stay within the law. Since ticket resale laws are complicated and vary so much from state to state, eBay has a calculator that allows you to plug in the state you live in and the state the event is in to find out if you are operating within the law.
eBay points out that it is important to remember that the law pertains to you only if you live in the same state where the event is taking place. If you live in a different state than where the event is taking place, then you are not restricted as a buyer or a seller.
To give you an idea of how much the states differ in their laws, here is an example of what Florida and New York permit when it comes to the resale of tickets, according to eBay. In Florida you cannot sell or buy a ticket for higher than face value, including fees plus $1 for tickets to events taking place in the Sunshine State. In New York, you cannot sell or buy tickets that are more than face value, including fees plus 45 percent of the ticket price for venues that seat more than 6,000 people and face value including fees, plus 20 percent for smaller venues.
When buying tickets in ebay, there are many things that one should look out for. Anyone can run an ebay auction, but if you are going to buy tickets, such as a concert ticket, on ebay then you will need to make sure that it is from a reputable seller. The way to do this is to check their member profile rating. This will allow you to view how many good ticket transactions they have had, as well as if anyone suggests that the seller ripped them off. If a seller has more than a year of expereince selling at least 100 tickets on ebay and has had no complaints of any being fake, then you should feel comfortble buying tickets through them.
Spotting fake tickets can be difficult, especially if the fake ticket is printed on the same material as that real tickets. This can happen when material is stolen from the company that prints the real tickets. The best way to ensure that a ticket is real, is to purchase it yourself from a legitimate ticket agency, such as Ticketmaster, or to take it to the venue before the event and ask the staff to scan it to see if it is real. Beyond that, there may not be a great way to tell until you get ejected from the event. If you have received a suspicious looking ticket, it is best to check into it before the night of the event.
If your goal is to buy sold-out tickets to the hottest event in town, there are online ticket brokers and secondary marketplaces that promise to deliver. But you will pay dearly for it.
For example, the popular online marketplace Stubhub.com (recently bought by eBay) tacks on a 25 percent surcharge -- 15 percent to sellers and 10 percent to buyers -- to make a profit.
Ticket brokers will charge you anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars for the hottest seats in the country. So if you want sold-out tickets to the Super Bowl, World Series, The Lion King or The Final Four, be prepared to dip into your bank account considerably.
Here are some examples: