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N4T Investigators: Tickets to nowhere

TUCSON – Sally Digges sings backup in a local band that features music from the British invasion. Now, Sally is also singing the blues.

“I love Paul McCartney,” Sally told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. “And I’ve been trying for about a month or six weeks to get tickets because the show had been sold out.”

Sally went online looking for two tickets to tomorrow night’s McCartney concert in Phoenix. She saw an ad last week on Craigslist, offering “two good seats for $300 or best offer.”

“I was so excited,” Sally said, “I mean he’s one of those artists that just puts on an amazing show.”

The seller said payment had to be through Western Union or Zelle. Zelle is a way to send money digitally between bank accounts. Sally’s offer of $250 per ticket was accepted. Her bank doesn’t use Zelle, but a friend’s does, so she paid him $500 for the two tickets.

Sally said, “It’s a lot of money. I mean, I thought long and hard about whether I could afford to go to this concert and I really, really wanted to go to it, and that was the money I had set aside for it and now, it’s gone.”

The seller used the name “Ayan Flournoy,” and Sally communicated with him or her only through texts. The seller claimed to be a “licensed ticket broker.” The day after payment was sent Sally hadn’t heard back, so she sent the seller a text.

“I said, ‘Hey, my friend said the money went through, can you check?’ And he said, ‘I’ll check.’ And that was the last I heard from him.”

We asked Sally what she first thought when she realized hours after not receiving the tickets that she had been scammed. “I felt like an idiot,” she said. “I thought of all the maybe little red flags that I should have picked up on.”

Red flags such as demanding payment through Western Union or Zelle, which is like sending cash. Sally should’ve used a credit card and bought from a legitimate ticket re-seller, such as StubHub. Another red flag: the scammer sent Sally a receipt listing the ticket order date as September of 2019. Sally caught the mistake before payment but believed the scammer’s excuse that it was an error by Ticketmaster.

We called the phone number the scammer gave Sally. No one answered. No surprise.

Sally said, “What was really frustrating is just knowing that there was no protection and learning after the fact that Zelle offered no protection for this type of transaction.”

Zelle told the News 4 Tucson Investigators in an email:

“We advise Zelle users to only send money to people they know and trust. Upon discovery of a scam, we immediately begin an investigation and work with our participating financial institutions to determine whether or not to restrict” the recipient from sending and receiving money with Zelle. The spokesperson said the scammer’s account has been restricted.

Myriam Cruz, a spokesperson with the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona, said, “As with most scams, the red flags are asking for payment through Western Union, MoneyGram, or Zelle.”

If you want to buy tickets online from a re-seller, Cruz says, “Use a trusted website and make sure that the payment form is a trusted name.” Zelle is trustworthy, but it’s just not that type of company.

Sally says she learned from this ordeal. “I’m going to go through a more trusted source. I mean, obviously, the best thing is if you can get those tickets right when they go on sale.”

This “Long and Winding Road” has a happy ending. When our camera showed up at Sally’s gig at Rockabilly on Saturday night, the owner and her bandmates found out about her getting scammed. They went on StubHub, chipped in, and bought her two real tickets to tomorrow’s McCartney concert.

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

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