Cancelled concerts are turning into big bucks for scam artists. WGN Investigates has the story of how one south suburban woman lost hundreds of dollars in an elaborate fraud scheme.
Janet Jackson is one of Renata Patterson’s favorite singers. So, when she heard the pop star was headlining this summer’s Cincinnati Music Festival, she went searching for seats.
In February, Patterson bought four tickets for $790 on Vivid Seats, an independent online ticket marketplace.
But when the pandemic hit, putting the festival’s future in jeopardy, Patterson started looking into a refund.
She went online and called a 1-800 number that she says came up for Vivid Seats. And that’s how Renata met “Justin.”
He told her he would issue a refund, only he couldn’t return the money to her debit card.
Instead, “Justin” instructed her to go to Target and buy two eBay gift cards, totaling $400.
“He said I had to purchase half of what my initial refund would be,” Patterson said.
Patterson did what he asked, providing “Justin” with the gift card numbers.
But never she received her refund and the $400 on the gift cards is gone. She now believes that was never his real name.
WGN called the 1-800 number but we couldn’t get a straight answer about what happened to Patterson and subsequent calls went unanswered.
The Better Business Bureau said it has seen a boost in the number of scams due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people seek refunds on cancelled concerts, vacations and other events.
The latest data from the Federal Trade Commission shows phones scams are the number one-way fraudsters get your money. In Illinois, the average amount lost is $312. Experts say it keeps happening because so many of the 1-800 numbers sound so real.
The federal “Traced Act,” which received bi-partisan support on Capitol Hill last year, will require toll-free wholesalers to gather more information from someone buying a number, in hopes that will discourage scammers and make them easier to track.
But for now, there’s little oversight.
In the meantime, Patterson wants her story to serve as a reminder to do your research when trying to obtain a refund.
“I don’t know what else to say but check, check, check,” she said.