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BBB Warns of Phony Tickets Sold to Fake Chicago Summer Festivals

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As large and small music festivals across Chicago begin to pop-up for the summer season, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of to beware of phony tickets sold to Chicago music festivals that don't exist.

According to a press release from the agency, counterfeit tickets sold for fake events isn't anything new. But as pandemic restrictions continue to ease and enthusiasm for summer events grows, the scams could be worse this year.

"Scammers are taking advantage of people's pent-up enthusiasm for food, music, culture, and outdoors in the wake of the pandemic," says Steve J. Bernas, president, and CEO of BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois.

"The con artists develop very realistic fraudulent websites and counterfeit tickets. They even created entirely fake events. These schemes steal your money and private financial and other personal data."

Bernas adds, "A fraudulent event took a similar name to a great neighborhood event in Chicago and scammers not only stole ticket money, they even charged for advance parking."

What the Scams Look Like

According to the BBB, the scams often begin on social media, with discounted tickets to a summer festival that promises all-you-can-eat meals, craft beer or wine, or other fun activities.

After clicking, consumers are taken to a professional looking website with what looks like photographs of the event.

"You enter your enter your credit card information to buy tickets, and you think you are all set," the BBB release says. "But before you buy, do a little research. Many victims don't find out they've been had until the day of the event."

The BBB says its Scam Tracker has received numerous reports from people who purchased fake tickets to both actual events, and events that never materialized.

According to the release, one consumer who purchased tickets to a phony beer crawl reported, "Reviews across multiple platforms make it clear that these events are at best extremely misleading or at worst canceled. No refunds are given, even when their mostly-unreachable customer service email address responds to confirm a refund will be provided."

What to Watch Out For

According to the BBB, pay close attention to these details while before buying tickets to an event:

  • Look for reviews and ratings of companies and events before purchasing tickets
  • Make sure you know the return and/or exchange policy
  • Search online for the festival's name and make sure the name advertised matches the website. Scammers often use words that sound similar to those of authentic festivals
  • Check for working contact information. Be sure the festival website has an actual phone number, ways to reach the event holders or ticket sellers, and an email address
  • Watch out for prices that sound too good to be true. If the prices are much lower than elsewhere, it's likely a scam 
  • Avoid tickets sold on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other free online listings. Scammers are skilled at providing realistic tickets and fake receipts
  • Pay with a credit card. You can dispute the charges if the business doesn't come through. Be wary of online sellers that don't accept credit cards
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