Why you're always too late to get tickets

The software that gets in first

Updated: 
Buying Tickets

Ticket touts may have been largely driven off the streets, but their business is still booming.

They are now using new technology to snap up tickets the moment they go on sale and sell them on at hugely inflated prices. They do this by using 'bots': software that blasts out ticket applications ready-programmed with names, addresses and credit card details to buy tickets ahead of real fans.

Ticket fraud expert Reg Walker says that he's investigated 120,000 ticket sales for high-demand events this year. And, in an interview with Sky Sports News HQ, he says more than 30% went to touts who then sold them on secondary sites.

"It's an arms race, and effectively the genuine ticket agencies can no longer keep abreast at the speed at which the touts can come up with new innovative software to attack their systems," he says.

Last month, the House of Lords tightened the rules governing ticket touts with an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill. Online secondary ticket outlets such as Seatwave, StubHub and Viagogo will be forced to publish details such as seat numbers and the original price of the ticket. They will also have to let customers know whether the promoter has the right to refuse entry when a ticket has been resold.

This, though, doesn't stop the touts from buying the tickets in the first place.

Recently, the Foo Fighters attempted to foil the bots by refusing to release tickets online and limiting sales for 21 US dates to actual box offices.

They emailed fans, saying: "Sick of Scalper-BOTS programmed to clog the online queue and snatch up huge amounts of tickets to resell them? Us too – So this Saturday, HUMANS get first shot at tickets."

More practically, sites such as Ticketmaster use 'captchas' to try and distinguish between real buyers and bots. These tests usually ask the buyer to read distorted text or numbers. But while this has in the past been difficult for computers to do, there are now software programs that are claimed to be able to solve them with as much as 90% accuracy.

Google is currently testing a new type of captcha that it says can beat the bots through an advanced risk analysis. But it remains to be seen how well it will work. And, Sharon Hodgson MP, co-chair of the All-Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse tells This Is Money, "You can introduce new security protocols, but it won't be long until someone will have found a way around it."

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