Were those Cat Stevens concert tickets on Viagogo a scam?

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Christopher Elliott

The discounted Cat Stevens concert tickets Graham MacMillan bought through Viagogo were a real ripoff. This is the story of how he found them, bought them — and lost them.

I write about shady deals because I don’t want you to fall for them. And MacMillan wants me to warn you, too. His case is a cautionary tale about cross-border transactions, buying concert tickets from a questionable source, and the limits of a credit card chargeback.

It gets complicated

MacMillan, who lives in Phuket, Thailand, found tickets for a Cat Stevens concert in Cape Town, South Africa, through Viagogo, a secondary marketplace for tickets. He used his MasterCard for the purchase.

“I rechecked my information three times before being satisfied it was all correct, before completing my transaction,” he says.

Well, it wasn’t.

MacMillan believed Viagogo’s price for the tickets was in South African rand and that he’d pay just 800 rand (about $66) for the tickets.

“Alas, when the process was completed, my purchase in South African rand terms was changed by Viagogo and was now a massive amount in euros,” he says.

Viagogo charged his card 856 euros, which is 12,500 rand, or about $1,062 [exchange rates at the time].

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The first cut is the deepest. You have to be a real Cat Stevens fan to pay that much for concert tickets.

What about Viagogo’s “guarantee”

Fortunately, Viagogo has a guarantee to protect its customers from fraudulent purchases.

It says:

Buyers are guaranteed to receive valid tickets in time for the event. If a problem arises, viagogo will step in to provide comparable replacement tickets or a refund.

Sellers are guaranteed to get paid for the tickets they sell and fulfill on time.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t cover any scammy activity perpetrated by Viagogo — like changing currencies mid-transaction.

In other words, this “guarantee” protects you against scammy buyers and sellers, but not against a scammy middleman. Of course it doesn’t!

“I will never use Viagogo again.”

MacMillan asked the company to adjust the price. It refused.

So he filed a chargeback with MasterCard. He lost.

“I did not attend the concert anyway, due to being in the hospital at the time,” he says. “I will never use Viagogo again.”

MacMillan believes this was a fraudulent transaction and that MasterCard should have sided with him in the chargeback. But his case is complicated. He lives in Thailand; Viagogo is based in the United States; the concert took place in South Africa. And who knows where the reseller is from? Talk about a wild world.

My advocacy team asked MacMillan for the paper trail of his correspondence with Viagogo. But instead, he asked us to write a story about his loss.

“After looking carefully at this matter intently for a number of months now, I have come to the conclusion that I was caught in a very well-constructed scam,” he says. “The person who got my money is smiling, and I drew the short stick. So I don’t think there is much else to do now. Warn others, please be careful with these online ticket sellers.”

Will do.

Now, to be fair, we don’t have Viagogo’s side of the story. But apparently its side was so compelling that MasterCard sided with it. And in the end, it didn’t matter because MacMillan canceled his trip.

But there are many lessons in his sad story. Pay close attention to currencies when you’re making a cross-border transaction. If you’re buying high-value concert tickets, consider insuring your purchase.

And read those “guarantees” closely. They probably won’t cover you

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, Forbes and the Washington Post. He also publishes Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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