Scammers dance away with $10K in Royal Winnipeg Ballet fraud scheme

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is out an estimated $10,000 thanks to online scammers targeting its annual Nutcracker production.

The RWB says scammers were using stolen credit cards to buy tickets to the popular holiday event, then reselling the tickets on third-party sites.

The scammers then absconded with the cash and the ballet lost out on the ticket money, which was refunded to the owners of the stolen cards.

RWB spokesperson Jocelyn Unrau told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg that buying from third-party sites might seem like a good deal, but it’s always best to buy directly from the ballet’s own box office to avoid any potential for fraud.

“We’re just cautioning people to practice a lot of diligence when they’re shopping online for tickets,” Unrau said.

“The RWB, along with a few other arts organizations …we’re lucky enough to be able to operate our own box offices, which allows a high level of personal customer service and also employing local people here in Winnipeg and Manitoba.”

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Unrau said third-party sellers often show up in online search results ahead of the organizations themselves, and would-be customers should take an extra few seconds to make sure they’re buying from a legitimate source.

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“Whenever you can, just sort of scroll a little bit further before you purchase your tickets and (make sure you) get them directly from organizations.”

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According to technology analyst Carmi Levy, these types of scams aren’t new, but the perpetrators in cases like these are improving their abilities to rip consumers off.

“It’s certainly becoming more prevalent. We’re seeing more instances of it,” Levy told 680 CJOB’s The Jim Toth Show.

“The technology that cybercriminals use to fake us into believing we’re dealing with a legitimate ticket selling entity when in fact it is not — they’re getting better tools, they’re getting better at their malevolent criminal craft.

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“The result is if you’re a consumer and you want to go to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, or to a Jets game — whatever it is that you want to go see — it’s becoming harder and harder to discern between a legitimate place to buy (tickets) and a non-legitimate place.”

In tough economic times, Levy said, everyone is looking for a deal, but the old adage is still relevant today: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

While third-party resellers are becoming adept at disguising their websites as legitimate ones, diligent consumers can root out the scams.

“Make sure that you know who you are connecting to and where you are buying from, Levy said. “It isn’t some other website, it isn’t Facebook marketplace, it isn’t eBay, it isn’t some link that I found on social media where someone says I can get a screaming deal on a ticket… let’s just cut third-party options out of our vocabulary here.”

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