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Counterfeit tickets leave football fans and concert goers with empty wallets and no seats

Authentic-looking Bruno Mars concert tickets sold to local consumers on Craigslist were flagged as fake at the Tacoma Dome event.  KOMO photo

An Oregon woman told the Better Business Bureau she lost $1,300 buying two Seahawks season tickets on Craigslist.

In her case, the tickets never existed. But, a lot of scammers are selling what look like actual tickets, not just for football games but for any popular event.

A local couple just found out the hard way at the recent Bruno Mars concert in Tacoma.

John Spicer and his wife Mindy are major Bruno Mars fans.

So, when they learned the entertainment superstar would be at the Tacoma Dome in July, John jumped online to buy tickets through Ticketmaster. He was too late.

"All the concerts sold out within minutes," said John.

So he turned to Craigslist, and was thrilled to find a seller.

"He said he had four seats, 13th or 14th row, and I thought, boy, that's great! How much do you want for them? And he said $400," said John.

$400 cash. Mindy Spicer met the seller at Northgate Mall.

"He showed me the tickets, showed me the receipt and explained to me where the new seats where, because they were different tickets," said Mindy.

The Spicers were sold two extremely realistic hard tickets made from actual ticket stock and two PDF format tickets, color-printed on 8 1/2" x 11" paper.

The couple and two friends drove from Edmonds to Tacoma, had a great restaurant meal and were all pumped up for the concert - until they presented one of the tickets at the Tacoma Dome.

"They tried to scan it and it wouldn't scan," said John.

"And the woman said to me, I'm sorry, these are fake," Mindy added. "She goes, you're not the first one. There were 20-30 hard tickets before you."

"And the couple we went with, we drove, all four of us together, they were also scammed," said John.

Experts say the fake tickets can be so realistic there's no way for the average consumer to know the difference.

"With hard tickets, I thought that was a done deal. I thought it was gonna be safe," John said.

"They're printing money," said Mindy. "This has to be illegal. It's got to be stopped."

It is illegal. But, investigators say the slick scammers are tough to trace - which means once they have your money, all you have is worthless paper with little or no chance of getting your money back.

Still, if you get burned on a ticket scam you should notify Ticketmaster, or event producers and file a police report.

If you buy tickets from someone you don't know, it's not enough to meet in a public place and check the receipt. Take someone with you and get photos of the seller, their driver's license, even their car if possible. If they say no, that's a good sign you should walk away.

But as a rule, experts say never give a cash or a check to anyone selling tickets on Craigslist or other non-authorized ticket websites.

Counterfeit tickets are a problem with concerts, theater and sports events - virtually any event where tickets are in high demand.

By the way, John and Mindy Spicer were able to see Bruno Mars in concert that night, but they had to pay another $200 to a reputable ticket broker at the Tacoma Dome.

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