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Watch for festival frauds this summer

Tents and a portable toilet set up for attendees on April 28 for the Fyre Festival, in the Exuma islands in the Bahamas. Organizers of the music festival canceled it at the last minute after many people had already arrived and spent thousands of dollars on tickets and travel. A statement cited “circumstances out of our control” for their inability to prepare the “physical infrastructure.”
Tents and a portable toilet set up for attendees on April 28 for the Fyre Festival, in the Exuma islands in the Bahamas. Organizers of the music festival canceled it at the last minute after many people had already arrived and spent thousands of dollars on tickets and travel. A statement cited “circumstances out of our control” for their inability to prepare the “physical infrastructure.” AP

When guests arrived at Fyre Festival recently, they were shocked to find an angry crowd instead of a luxury music festival. Unfortunately, Fyre isn’t the only festival that has failed to live up to its promise. In the Treasure Valley, BBB investigated a RibFest that misled Idahoans in 2013. After that investigation, Idaho’s Attorney General reached an agreement with Ribfest promoter Kasey Thompson that Thompson would stop advertising or selling promotional goods or services in the state.

Across the country each summer, scammers and promoter wannabes tempt would-be festival goers into buying tickets for events promising all-you-can-eat crab, live music and other fun. Whether the event is non-existent or merely disappointing, the result is the same: Someone had pocketed your hard-earned money.

How the scam works:

You see a social media post or online ad for a great deal on tickets to a summer festival. The type of festival varies; it can be a music extravaganza, an all-you-can-eat crab feast or BBQ, a craft beer festival, or a themed fun run. When you click the link, and it takes you to a flashy website with fantastic pictures. You enter your credit card information to buy tickets, and you are set.

Don’t do it. Better Business Bureaus across North America have gotten reports of fake festivals, or festivals that promise way more than they deliver. Victims purchase tickets and show up at the time and location, only to find a crowd of frustrated ticket holders. The festival either never existed or fell far short of organizers’ promises.

How to spot a festival fake-out:

▪  Research before purchasing: Search online for the name of the festival and make sure the name advertised matches the website. Scammers often use names that sound similar to real festivals. Check BBB.org and BBB Scam Tracker to see if reports have been filed about the event.

▪  Check for (working) contact information: Be sure the festival website has a phone number, physical address, and email address. Be wary of sites that make it hard to reach someone, such as those that rely on a contact form instead of offering a customer service phone number.

▪  Prices too good to be true: There is no way a festival can offer tickets at extremely low prices without losing money. If the prices are much lower than elsewhere, it’s likely a scam.

▪  Claims too good to be true: Do a little online sleuthing to see if claims add up. If a music festival offers top entertainment, check out those bands’ actual touring schedule. See what other users or news outlets have said about the festival in the past.

If you are interested in purchasing tickets to a festival, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. First, pay by credit card. You can dispute charges if this business doesn’t come through. Be wary of online sellers that don’t accept credit cards.

Look for secure sites: The website should begin with https (the extra “s” is for secure) and have a little lock symbol on the address bar.

Avoid tickets sold on Craigslist and other free online listings: Scammers are skilled at providing realistic tickets and fake receipts. Check out third-party ticket sites at bbb.org before making purchases.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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