A random act of kindness has left an elderly woman hoodwinked out of hundreds of dollars.
Shirley Frater, 78, bought two tickets to Foster and Allen at the ASB Theatre, in Blenheim, in April, for a man who does her lawns for free, only to find out one of the tickets was fraudulent.
The man did a lot of community work, often for no more than a cup of tea, and Frater wanted to show her appreciation.
She bought the tickets off Viagogo, an independent website that allows people to sign up and resell tickets to ticket buyers.
She paid $300 for the two tickets in November; $180 for the two theatre tickets and $120 in booking fees.
Frater, of Motueka, said she felt pressured to buy the tickets as the website said there were only five tickets left and two people were looking at buying them.
“It was all very official, very credible looking,” she said.
“After payment, a confirmation notice is sent and you’re told that seat selection is not available until closer to the production’s date.”
Frater said she was a “smart and cynical person”, but still did not suspect the purchase until it was too late.
“When no tickets came through several weeks later, warning bells rung,” she said.
A long wait between purchase and ticket was a common con used by scammers to ensure banks could not refund someone who bought fraudulent tickets, due to zero liability policies.
These policies meant individuals who encountered fraudulent transactions had to inform their bank within a limited time period or be stuck with the charges.
Frater contacted her bank which, although sympathetic, could not refund the purchase as her notification exceeded their timeframe.
Viagogo declined to comment but referred to its FAQ page where it stated Viagogo could not offer refunds as it was “not the ticket seller”.
The Commerce Commission was investigating Viagogo after 228 complaints, as of last month, against the Swiss website.
More than a hundred Nelson residents bought fake Theatre Royal tickets on Viagogo last year.
“I could not afford there to be an issue at the theatre, so I contacted the ASB Theatre and explained the situation,” Frater said.
“The woman from the theatre investigated and found there were four tickets for the Foster & Allen show left which I could purchase, so I did.”
Frater said the ASB Theatre told her numerous other fraudulent Viagogo tickets had surfaced alongside hers.
Each time, third party ticket sellers used ticket reseller Viagogo to sell fraudulent tickets to local theatre-goers.
“These scammers are ripping good people off and then disappointing them,” Frater said.
“How do these people sleep at night?
“It’s not just the ticket. It’s the expense of travelling to the theatre, purchasing a night’s accommodation and buying a meal or too. It isn’t cheap.
“And then, after forking out all these additional expenses, to be turned away from the venue … it’s inconceivable for any age group.
“People want to be able to trust their seat is there for them when they arrive.”
ASB Theatre Marlborough general manager Andrew Scott said residents should buy from primary ticket sellers.
“If people are buying for events that are out of town, they need to take note of which venue the event is at, then go to that venue’s website.”