The past few weeks have seen an uptick in the dark art of scamming, and some of it relates to music. The worlds of live ticketing and record buying have both been hit with a flood of scams, mostly related to the modern age of electronic payments and digital goods.
In today’s world many concert tickets are digital codes. Simply show the QR code on your phone to the door person, they scan the code, you’re in. Physical tickets do still exist but the COVID era has seen a huge rise in the amount of paperless ticketing going on.
And with that comes the scam – a person on a Facebook group (where a lot of this is going on) says they have tickets for a show, at a decent price compared to the predatory resale market. Someone agrees to buy the tickets. The buyer pays the seller through PayPal or Venmo (same company, btw). The seller gets the money then vanishes into the ether, leaving the buyer hanging for tickets that never truly existed.
I’ve heard about this happening with concerts but I’ve personally witnessed it in the sports world – St. Louis has a new Major League Soccer team and it’s been a hot ticket so far with a massive resale market. Scammers have popped up in Facebook groups offering non-existent tickets quite a bit the past few weeks. It’s the only stuff I’ve really seen, but I’ve heard these same scammers are floating around with fake concert tickets too.
The easiest way to not be scammed like this is obviously not to buy from an untrusted source, which is tough if you want decently price resale tickets. Using the Goods and Services option through PayPal does provide a measure of protection, it is an absolute red flag if a seller asks for payment via the Friends and Family option, no one should ever make a PayPal purchase through that unless the person selling is a family member or friend. But buying from some random poster on a Facebook page is not really the way to go, even if legit sales do happen.
This will continue to be a thing as concert tickets go digital. I don’t know what real solutions are for this, the digital ticket market kind of lends itself to needing an official resale outlet- which is just what the few companies who engage in that trade want, of course. It used to be pretty easy to buy a paper ticket from someone who needed to sell, now it’s a whole other ballgame.
The other realm seeing scam activity is the secondary vinyl market, and specifically on the Discogs site. Discogs has become the premier place to catalog records as well as sell them. It’s a mostly convenient site for doing anything vinyl-related, though the scam bug has infiltrated it as of late.
Most of the information I’m using here comes from the Discogs subreddit. There’s been a lot of discussion about scammers in the past while, though there’s also been some misplaced hysteria over it too.
The Discogs scam goes like this – someone lists a record for sale, usually a hot item that goes for a few hundred bucks. For awhile the going price on these scam listings was around $80. A susceptible buyer jumps on the deal, then the seller disappears and the money with them. Even with word getting around about this type of scam, it appears plenty of buyers have fallen for it.
Discogs offers a few degrees of protection that the concert ticket thing does not. There is a seller and buyer feedback system, though the scammers are usually long gone by the time feedback means anything. There is also a reporting system for suspicious listings, and it seems to have some effectiveness. The typical method of payment is also PayPal Goods and Services, which provides PayPal’s own protection that often favors a spurned buyer. A seller seeking payment through means that circumvent PayPal G&S is an auto red flag and also against the Discogs terms of service.
There are a lot of if, and’s and but’s about this whole thing. Discogs themselves issued a message about scamming on Friday, April 28th to all users. They are going to take action on the matter, including a waiting period for new sellers. It’s a good move but it also affects me, since I am getting ready to sell on the platform. But I can’t really bitch since they are taking active steps to stem the scamming tide.
One bit BUT to this is the issue of user feedback. The feedback is essentially a score on Discogs, and in all honesty it doesn’t work out that great. I’ve only been a buyer on the platform to this point and all of my transactions have cleared without issue, about 50. I have a 24 score in feedback, all positive, and all on the buyer side. That’s less than half of what I’ve truly bought on there. Many sellers have reported getting less than 50% feedback on successful transactions as well.
The mitigating factor is that you don’t need a massive buyer score. Mine is 100% and is totally fine, even if it doesn’t represent half of my actual purchases. For a seller? Discogs feedback is massively important. A new seller might ship off three records to three different buyers and get dinged on one for some odd reason. The 66% seller feedback rating is a killer for them. To add in new metrics that affect new sellers is another hurdle to clear that sometimes isn’t practical.
The big issue which is sort of in the background here is the scammers and their accounts. No one should buy a cheap record from a new account, that ought to yell out scam to anyone. But – scammers have also been hacking accounts of established sellers and pulling this same crap. I don’t know how often it’s happened but there has been a bit of talk about it on the reddit forum.
Some have wondered just how much scamming was really going on through Discogs. Some feel the issue is overblown, while others point to a fair amount of clear scam listings as well as testimony from people who got ripped off. And an official response from the site itself would indicate it’s a big enough issue, at least in perception, to make official policy around it.
There are a mess of other issues entwined in this – what about the person who actually wants to sell a record cheap? Some personal collectors do fire sale their stuff because they need money pretty badly. Selling below the Discogs median will still net far more money than what most local shops will pay. These scams have been far below the price line so hopefully it won’t catch up anyone truly needing to make a buck or the lucky person who scores a nice haul out of it.
And yes, buyers do scam too. One common one is to pretend the item never showed up and get a refund. Another is to order a clean, nice condition record, request a refund and then return a damaged record to the seller. This is a thread I intend to pick up in a separate post.
In the case of Discogs scams, the easiest way to protect yourself is to not buy listings that are far below the median price. No one is selling a rare Cure record for $200 less than its median price. PayPal does offer its usual degree of buyer protection, but it’s still far easier to not get caught up in the scam to begin with.
This issue will likely crop up again, as it’s clear that the digital money age has lent itself to a whole host of predatory people. I don’t know how the live concert/digital ticket market will shake out, that one is kind of a frontier. I do expect the Discogs saga to relent some but that’s just a gut feeling, I could be totally wrong about that. Either way, be careful out there with your money, it’s a shark tank.