Buying scalped tickets for this weekend's U-M vs. MSU game? It's buyer beware, authorities say
Among the hundreds of tickets for sale and requests for tickets to Saturday’s sold-out Michigan football game on Craigslist is a post warning buyers of a $500 scam.
“These people that are selling tickets to Mich-MSU game using eBay is a scam. I just got taken!!!! DO NOT DO TRANSACTION!” it reads.
Secondary markets for the game are flooded with tickets, especially so for Saturday's game due to its high-profile. But authorities say it’s a matter of “buyer beware” when purchasing through an unauthorized dealer.
Some popular sites, such as Stubhub.com, offer a degree of buyer protection. Ticket prices on that site Wednesday ranged from $250 to $1,000 each. Sites like Craigslist — where prices were as high as $500 each on Wednesday — don’t offer buyer protection.
And local police authorities say they don’t handle cases involving counterfeit tickets purchased online.
Diane Brown, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety, said campus police only occasionally conduct investigations into people selling counterfeit or forged tickets on campus property. She said it’s difficult to track down the origin of the forged ticket, and officials are aware of out-of-town, organized rings that sell fake or forged tickets at higher profile games.
“They are in, they make their money, they’re out and they are very difficult to trace,” Brown said.
She added the department usually hears about issues through the university’s athletic department because people know purchasing scalped tickets is illegal and are hesitant to make a police report.
“Buying from an authorized ticket provider is highly recommended,” Brown said. “If you choose to purchase from someone else, then you choose to do so at your own risk.”
Joe Parker, the interim director of the U-M Athletic Ticket Office, said a scam his office sometimes hears of is a person putting up seats for sale online and selling to multiple buyers without any intent to deliver.
“That’s why it’s buyer beware, especially with a high profile game like this where there is so much demand,” he said.
Last year, a Troy man was accused of selling the same tickets to hundreds of people wanting to attend a metro Detroit Nickelback concert. He committed suicide before he was charged.
Parker said the Athletic Ticket Office has taken several measures over the last several years to help address the problem of counterfeit tickets. Each ticket now comes with a barcode that is invalid after it’s scanned. Tickets also contain a foil highlight that is difficult to replicate unless done by a professional printer.
Parker said the department advises people not to purchase tickets through an unknown source.
Ann Arbor Deputy Police Chief Jon Seto declined to comment on how the department is addressing the issue at this week’s game, but said plainclothes officers have patrolled outside Michigan Stadium in the past, looking for people selling tickets without a permit. If a scalper is found to have counterfeit tickets, Seto said the police department will investigate.
Seto said the department doesn't handle complaints on counterfeit tickets online because the tickets are University of Michigan property. He suggested exercising caution when purchasing from an unknown seller.
“You have to be cautious and do some research and check backgrounds just like with anything you might see online,” he said. “Do your due diligence and make sure what your buying isn’t counterfeit.”
Richard Spears, a U-M fan who posted a want ad on Craigslist offering to pay $300 for a pair of tickets, said he will only buy from people who will meet him in person for the exchange.
"I've found that the people who don't want to talk to you over the phone or the people who don't want to meet you in person to do an exchange are the ones who I don't buy from," he said. "It seems real shady when someone wants you to send them money first and then they will send you the tickets."
Washtenaw County Chief Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Steve Hiller said he is unaware of his office prosecuting anyone for selling counterfeit tickets, but there is no specific charge for doing so. He said such a case would likely fall under forgery or larceny under false pretenses, and he was unable to verify which recent cases, if any, involved counterfeiting tickets.
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.