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Scalper 101: That’s the ticket … or is it?

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Ticket scalping. It’s the big greasy elephant in the room—well, technically, outside of it—at live concerts. It happens almost everywhere, at almost every show, and if you get caught on the wrong side of it, it can ruin the experience. Think: overpaying for a ticket and still not getting to see your favorite band.

Venues take steps to combat it. For example, they limit the number of tickets one individual can purchase. Steve Wynn went so far as to require a person’s name when ordering Garth Brooks tickets and forbidding any changes. And of course, there are laws in place. Clark County stipulates that tickets must be sold at face value, though, according to a Metro spokesman, local police tend to ignore individual ticket sellers to focus on those operating full ticket businesses without licenses or selling tickets known to be fraudulent.

Still, it’s not hard for “ticket brokers” to beat the system. Online buyers can buy eight tickets as “Billy Bob,” then another eight as “Bob Billy.” Or they can charge the $40 face value for a ticket with a $300 “service fee.” “Where there’s a way to get money, people are going to do it,” says Paul Davis, vice president of entertainment at Hard Rock Hotel. “I’d love to see more government enforcement of scalping, but I don’t think it will ever go away.”

These days, the most pressing scalping issue might not even be the price tag for a sold-out ticket but, rather, whether that ticket will even get its buyer through the turnstile. Producing multiple versions of the same ticket is as simple as pressing the print button on a computer, but only the first copy to the door will grant access to the show.

How to minimize the risk? Some frequent buyers suggest buying off eBay, where sellers’ feedback ratings and buyer’s reviews are publicly viewable, but that route could cost you more. Some ticket-broker sites like stubhub.com claim to put money-back guarantees behind their tickets, but money later only lessens the sting of being turned away from a must-see show at the time. And remember, hard tickets might be tougher to duplicate than computer print-outs, but there’s no way to be sure they haven’t been invalidated by someone already inside the venue.

Sadly, the truth is that it’s difficult to know whether a ticket is legit if it doesn’t come directly from the box office or originating distribution website like Ticketmaster. Ultimately, the most practical advice is the obvious: Save yourself from needing to buy from scalpers by buying early whenever possible. Oh, and if you do get screwed, the Joint’s Lori Guzzard has one small plea: “Don’t take it out on the box office. We try to help.”

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