Thursday, August 7, 2008
Two web sites purporting to sell tickets to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games due to open in Beijing, China on Friday have been the subject of lawsuits from the International Olympic Committee in United States courts in recent weeks. The web sites, beijingticketing.com and beijing-2008tickets.com, were designed to resemble official sites and often appeared above the official sites in Google searches, and scammed some victims out of up to US$50,000 each for tickets to events such as the Opening Ceremony and swimming, which were listed despite the official Beijing ticket web site stating that tickets to all events had sold out as of July 27. The sites are believed to have taken in millions of dollars in total.
Ken Gamble, a private investigator from Sydney, Australia, believes the sites are operated by Terance Shepherd, whom Gamble has been tracking for several years in relation to other fraudulent web sites selling tickets to events such as the FIFA World Cup. According to Gamble, Shepherd’s modus operandi involves setting up the fake web sites, overselling the tickets, and then failing to produce the tickets. “The story’s always the same,” Gamble said, “it’s an ‘unfortunate mistake’ or someone has ‘let them down’. They promise a refund, which never happens, and the credit companies end up paying all the refunds.” Shepherd owns a home in the London suburb of Blackheath, although authorities believe he is currently hiding in Barbados.
On Monday, beijingticketing.com customers received an email from someone named “Alan Scott”, claiming that the site’s ticket supplier had filed for bankruptcy. The email recommended that customers should contact their credit card companies to seek refunds “immediately”, and said that the company would set up a call centre to provide assistance to its customers. However, the site has been shut down and a phone number previously listed on it has been disconnected. The company’s address, in Phoenix, Arizona, was found to be an empty office space. Visa International has stated that victims who used their Visa card to pay should be able to get their money back, but it is not yet clear whether the same will apply to all customers.