The start of football season marks an exciting time for students with tailgates, in-person gatherings and a full student section at Camp Randall on the horizon.
However, as the excitement builds, so does the possibility of getting scammed when purchasing football tickets online.
For the 2021-22 football season, the first season allowing guests since the COVID-19 pandemic, football tickets sales were digitized. The new system requires students to transfer tickets digitally rather than providing them with paper tickets to sell in person.
The new digitized ticketing system has been a major issue for students that have been scammed out of receiving football tickets.
Danielle Stecyna, an incoming senior at UW-Madison studying marketing, missed the deadline to purchase tickets for the Sept. 25 game at Soldier Field in Chicago against Notre Dame. So, she did what most students would do and took to the UW Badger Student Ticket Exchange Facebook group to find a ticket.
“I found a decent amount of people that were selling, but every ticket was super expensive, so I waited to see if I could find cheaper tickets,” Stecyna said.
A few days later, Stecyna found a cheaper ticket for $75. Shocked, she immediately messaged the seller to purchase their ticket. Stecyna was unfamiliar with the digital transferring system, so she simply purchased the ticket and sent over the payment through PayPal.
“He asked if I could use PayPal because he didn’t have Venmo, and I thought, ‘that’s so weird. What college student doesn’t have Venmo?’” said Stecyna. “He also said I needed to use the friends and family option. It was my first time using PayPal in a while, so I just sent the money.”
Hours later, Stecyna had yet to receive her ticket. After asking the seller to transfer it to her account, he blocked her.
Stecyna had been using the Facebook page to sell and purchase tickets since her first year at UW-Madison. However, due to the new digital transferring system, she was unaware of the rising prevalence of online scams.
“I actually noticed that people are photoshopping pictures of tickets, too,” Stecyna said. “When you had a physical ticket, you could go and pick it up from someone in person. With electronic transferring, you can send your money before they send the ticket and vice-versa, which makes it easier for people to scam you. I knew I should be aware of it, but I think I was taken aback that it actually happened to me.”
Another student looking for tickets, Jack Diederich, was approached by a Facebook scammer under the name “Frank Linda” claiming to have three season ticket passes for sale.
When Diederich asked the user to confirm their identity as a student, he was faced with a surprise – a poorly photoshopped image of someone’s face onto a University of Alabama student.
A June Reddit thread highlighted advice for those looking to not get scammed, including purchasing and transferring tickets in person, using PayPal goods and services and purchasing tickets with cash.
According to Marc Lovicott, UW-Madison Police Department director of communications, students can take extra steps to ensure ticket validity, including meeting in areas with camera coverage when purchasing in person, asking for proof of identification and checking ticket sites for their liability policies in case of scams.
Lovicott also advised students to avoid including the ticket barcode or serial number in photos when selling tickets, as scammers can plug these numbers into online services to try and sell them.
About a month after her ill-fated transaction, Stecyna finally received a refund for the original ticket amount from PayPal.
“Looking back on it, I know this wasn’t my fault,” she said. “But, I should have seen some of the red flags. I was so upset. I wanted it to be true so bad.”