Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My poor flatmate and his friend have just been scammed out of tickets to see The Killers on Friday. I feel bad for him, as its become a hectic scramble to find new tickets, plus sort out the chaos with their CC issuer for what I can hope will be a full refund. However, I also feel the nagging urge to lecture people about internet safety.

I consider myself reasonably adept at computers. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 being never used a computer and 10 being able to hack into a government database, I can safely rate myself a 6-7. I'm fully capable of blowing off and rebuilding a pc from scratch, and consider myself very savvy at using the internet. As much as I'd love the knowledge of major computer hacking, I've never found a useful medium for learning such things without the fear of making a mistake and accidentally erasing my registry (or something equally heart-breaking. Nothing like the Blue Screen of Death.)

Add my internet savvy-ness with a healthy fear of losing my money and a reluctance to trust other people, and I've become quite the leery shopper. I very rarely buy things online anymore, mainly because London has so much to offer. However, back home in Calgary, sometimes I chose eBay over Walmart and other equally boring stores in my search for unique things.

If you must visit it out of curiosity, the fraudulent website in question is Hyde Park Tickets. While my flatmate argued that it was a proffesional-looking website and his friend trusted it, there are several things that put me off this website - most of which were found within a quick 2-minute look.

Now, a lot of these don't raise any alarms on their own (well, a couple do), but when noticed all together it can be rather fishy. A-hem.

1) The website address is "Hyde Park Box Office" but the company name is "Hyde Park Tickets". In fact, both and both link to an almost identical (but not the same) website. While big companies like Apple have purchased links such as, they will link directly to the main website (or a sub-section of that website), not to a brand new website.

2) Under the "Contact Us" button - there is nothing except for a submit form. No phone number, no e-mail address (except for - no mention of whether it is checked or just an automated e-mail system). While many website have opted for this type of form, for a legitimate business with a legitimate office, they will include a contact phone number or address.

3) They can't make up their mind on ticket prices. When I visit "", the ticket price is £65, while on their sister site, "", the price is £45. Right then and there I would take my pounds elsewhere. But, just for fun, let's keep going.

4) Here's something fun. When I receive those annoying "faux-bank-account-crisis" e-mails in my spam e-mail account, I like to click on them and fill out fake information. 100% of the time, if it is a fake website, they will let you "log in" with any information, because they have no way to check its authenticity. Well guess what, this website does that, too. I just finished filling in a fake form, including fake name, address, phone number, CREDIT CARD (including fake - and invalid - expiration date and authenticity code). And it worked. Now, I'm sure that many websites do the same - accepting CC information without making charges right away - however, this just adds to the already very suspicious list of strange things.

And finally, the cherry on the top:

5) A quick Google search seals the deal. What did I ever do without Google? It's hard to imagine my life without it. It's that sad. Either way, I typed in "HydeParkBoxOffice Fraud" and got 6 hits. A search on " Fraud Scam" and got well over 107 hits, mainly forums, all with users poor reviews of buying tickets through these sites and, while being charged on their credit cards, never received the tickets. While 1 poor review isn't always enough to keep me from buying from someone (especially through eBay, as people can sometimes hold grudges and leave poor reviews for no cause), 107 pages of poor reviews is enough to turn me off forever.

Now, I've spent most of my adult (and teen... and childhood) life on computers, and have learned the ins and outs of the internet. I understand and respect that not everyone used computers as much as I do, but the internet can be just as dangerous as it is lovely. There are real people lurking out there, eagerly fighting others to take your money, with or without your permission. While there is no guidebook for internet use, a quick Google search could very well save a lot of stress, let alone your money.

Any other tips and tricks that you use to detect and avoid the fraud and scams out there?