During the search for tickets to her first Taylor Swift concert, Jasmine Ma has talked to dozens of probable scammers on Facebook and Instagram.
Sometimes they have obviously fake profiles. Other times, their profile appears legit, complete with photos at previous Swift concerts. In Ma’s experience, the would-be scammers usually start to give her a hard time when she requests to make the purchase using PayPal Goods and Services, a digital payment platform that protects buyers and sellers.
Ma, 27, of Bustleton, wishes she could just get tickets off a verified resale site such as StubHub, SeatGeek, or Vivid Seats. But with prices for Swift’s three Philly concerts starting at $1,300 after fees on those sites, Ma said she has no choice but to brave a social media marketplace rife with con artists looking to take advantage of Swifties.
A trusted secondary-market site “would definitely make me feel more assured, but the ticket prices are way too high right now,” said Ma, who works in administration for an engineering firm. Despite being a lifelong fan, “it’s not justifiable paying more than a mortgage to see her for a night.”
As Swifties across the region get increasingly desperate this week, people like Teresa Murray worry. As consumer watchdog for the Public Interest Research Group, she has seen how tech-savvy and sophisticated scammers can be — and how diehard fans can be especially vulnerable.
“There are con artists out there that have been thinking for a long time about how to scam people, whether it’s for Taylor Swift or Beyoncé [concerts] or a 76ers playoff game,” Murray said. “For a lot of people, going to a Taylor Swift concert in person makes them just desperate, and desperate people sometimes do irrational things.”
Concert tickets being priced so high can exacerbate FOMO, or “the fear of missing out,” said Moody’s analyst Jason Mercer. As fans scour all corners of the internet for tickets, struggling to find ones in their price range, “it’s in their mind that this must be the best show ever.”
No matter how desperate they are, Murray never advises fans to buy tickets from strangers on social media, recommending that they instead network in their own circles in the offline world.
Ask relatives, friends, neighbors, or coworkers whether they have tickets or know anyone who does. Even if you end up buying from a longtime coworker or friend, she said, there is a level of protection in knowing that your friend would be able to track the seller down in the unlikely event that they scammed you.
With strangers on social media, there are no guarantees, she said, and more than just the ticket cost could be on the line.
Some scammers have started asking people to open their email and send them a code, which allows the scammer to take over the person’s email and potentially access their banking account and other personal information.
“There will be people who make bad decisions this week and buy fraudulent tickets, get their personal information hacked, because they wanted to go to a concert,” she said. “At some point, you need to make a decision: Is it really worth it … if you have to worry so much about whether you’re going to get scammed?”
For some Swifties, the answer is yes.
After encountering likely scammers for months on Facebook and Twitter, Danielle D’Achille, 28, of Conshohocken, bought two $420 tickets from someone on Facebook last week. She felt confident that the seller was legitimate, she said. The woman FaceTimed D’Achille and sent a screen recording, showing their conversation on Facebook messenger and then a Ticketmaster account with the tickets in it.
By being tapped into Swiftie social media channels, D’Achelle, a project manager, said she learned to look for specific red flags, such as accounts with a profile picture allegedly showing the seller and Swift (which is believed to be taken from other people’s profiles).
“I’ve been psychotic about following all this stuff,” she said. “I understand if you’re not someone who is chronically on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, all these social media, you wouldn’t know to look for these things.”
Which begs the question: Is the online resale market any better, any safer for consumers, than the old-fashioned one that consisted of scalpers outside the stadium?
“I honestly don’t know,” Murray said, noting that a scalper’s tickets could sometimes be verified at the box office before any money was exchanged. “If I couldn’t buy tickets from a friend or a coworker or a relative, I think I’d rather buy tickets from a scalper in the olden days outside the venue than some random person on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.”