Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Crime The Almighty Buck Entertainment

Scalpers Earned $25M Gaming Online Ticket Sellers 574

Posted by kdawson
from the flash-crowd-at-the-ticket-queue dept.
SeattleGameboy writes "An indictment has been issued for online ticket brokers known as 'Wiseguy Tickets and Seats of San Francisco.' From 2002 to 2009, they used bots, server farms, and CAPTCHA hacking to buy vast number of premium tickets (Springsteen, Miley Cyrus, NFL, MLB playoffs, etc.) and made $25 million in profits. 'They wrote a script that impersonated users trying to access Facebook, and downloaded hundreds of thousands of possible CAPTCHA challenges from reCAPTCHA. They identified the file ID of each CAPTCHA challenge and created a database of CAPTCHA "answers" to correspond to each ID. The bot would then identify the file ID of a challenge at Ticketmaster and feed back the corresponding answer. The bot also mimicked human behavior by occasionally making mistakes in typing the answer, the authorities said.' I guess you can break any system like CAPTCHA if you want it badly enough."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scalpers Earned $25M Gaming Online Ticket Sellers

Comments Filter:
  • by dtmos (447842) * on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @06:36AM (#31327996)

    Wouldn't it have been easier just to make the money legitimately?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @06:40AM (#31328014)

      Yes, 25 million USD is easy to make legitimately, that's why everyone is doing it!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by xtracto (837672)

        Yes, 25 million USD is easy to make legitimately, that's why everyone is doing it!

        guess you can break any system like CAPTCHA if you want it badly enough."

        Moreover, this shows that the used security mechanism is worth at least 25 million USD.

        The problem is that the CAPTCHA approach is flawed. Any similar type of challenge-response system can be abused for illegal activity. At the very end, the only thing an attacker has to ensure is that the cost of obtaining enough challenge-responses is less than the outcome of the illegal activity.

        Say, if they pay a group of Chinnese guys USD $0.39 an hour, you can get a fair amount of human identifying challenge-response

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ottothecow (600101)
          Paying people to solve the captchas won't work as well as building a database of possible captchas... Ticketmaster only gives you something like a 2 minute window to complete the process so you can't just have somebody hammering through captcha's for a few hours every day...you need access to all of them in the few minutes after the tickets go on sale (as opposed to making fake email accounts or something where the timing is not important).

          The real flaw here is that the captchas were reused and identifia

          • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @11:52AM (#31330598) Homepage Journal
            While I'm not a fan by ANY stretch of the imagination of scalpers...I'm a bit puzzled as to exactly what laws were broken here?

            It did mention they may have hacked into Ticketmasters systems, and if they did break in, ok, I can see that.

            However, using scripts/applications to log into a site and buy tickets, I don't see how that is illegal? They are just using a program to mimic what human could do on a website that only reacts to input and doesn't care itself if a human or a scripts is behind the computer connection being made.

            Is it against the law to study and make a database of captcha's?

            Like I said..I hate scalpers, they grab all the best tickets for places that allow scalping, and even in states where you can't scalp, they grab the tickets and sell to people outside the state keeping locals from getting tix (since they can't by law pay more than face value).

            But, I have a hard time viewing the mere fact that someone devised and used a program to auto-purchase tickets as being something illegal? What if an enterprising person that really loved going to shows did the same type thing to ensure that he could buy the best seats for a show that went on sale for himself and his friends? Same principal? In the old days when you had to call in for tix, would they have arrested people for having speed dial (new at the time) and using it to an advantage over people dialing by hand? Hmmm....

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          What I want to know is, why was a few hundred thousand reCAPTCHA challenges enough to have a reasonable chance of getting a duplicate? Shouldn't the number of possible challenges be several orders of magnitude higher to discourage this kind of attack?

        • by Scratch-O-Matic (245992) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @12:20PM (#31330970)
          The problem is that the CAPTCHA approach is flawed. Any similar type of challenge-response system can be abused for illegal activity.

          I met a guy who was a pilot in Vietnam. They had (and still have) a system where everyone carries a card with a grid of numbers and letters on it, and you can authenticate someone over the radio by picking a couple spots on the grid and they respond with, for example, the character adjacent to them. Well, he forgot his card one day and was queried by a controlling agency using the authentication card. He told them to stand by, switched frequencies, and issued the same challenge to another agency. They responded, and he switched back and passed it along to successfully authenticate himself.
      • by dtmos (447842) * on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @07:52AM (#31328322)

        The indictment actually states that, ". . .Wiseguys and its owners made more than $20 million in profits. . ." (p. 2 of the indictment [wired.com]), so let's start with the $20 million number.

        Keep in mind that:

        (a) The $20 million was made over an eight-year period, 2002-2009, so the average was $2.5 million/year;

        (b) The profit of the enterprise was split among the two principals (the CFO received $165,000 and the programmer received $150,000, natch...), so that brings it down to an average of $1.25 million/year for the two principals (I think we can agree that the salaried guys did not do well in their risk/reward ratio calculations); and

        (c) The "profit" figure used in indictments is nearly always what a legitimate businessperson would call "gross profit [wikipedia.org]," meaning, to quote Wikipedia, "the difference between revenue and the cost of making a product or providing a service, before deducting overhead, payroll, taxation, and interest payments." As a criminal enterprise, these guys didn't have to worry about taxation (at least, the correct amount of taxation), but they did have to pay the salaries of the other 10-15 people working for Wiseguys Tickets, Inc., and all the other expenses associated with running the enterprise (computers ... ). All of that would have to come out that $1.25 million/year/indictable person. A quick look through the indictment shows the several persons on staff in the US being paid from $55k to $142k/year each, and the ones in Bulgaria being paid from $1 to $1.5k/month each, so you do the math.

        The point being, the retirement plan associated with these types of schemes is typically poor, as it's usually at a federally-funded establishment. These guys ran a small tech company with overseas offices, and could have done the same legitimately at a salary of probably $150k/year which, once benefits were included, would be equivalent to $250k/year in cash (to make a direct comparison to their criminal enterprise). In a legitimate business, the CEO also would have had significant stock options and other perks given to him by the company's board to motivate him to grow the company. With even moderate growth over that period, the CEO could be very well-off. As I say, it's easier to make money legitimately.

        And you sleep better.

        • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @08:44AM (#31328526) Homepage

          Nice work. You forgot one thing when discussing what "easier" means -- entry into market.

          Let's use porn as an example. Legitimate media is extremely competitive. Want to start a TV station? A Newspaper? Put out a movie? Music? Those things are dominated by incumbent players who do not like new competition. On the other hand, porn is forced into a low profile, so even though there are big players in the industry, brand names and other matters of high public notice barely even exist. So nearly anyone can make porn.

          And since we are talking about event tickets, we are also talking about a pretty well limited and controlled market. It would be unthinkable for someone to just appear out of thin air and start making that kind of money legitimately. Scalpers, on the other hand, are delivering the premium goods with no need of marketing, reputation or other complications required for legitimate business.

          So when you are talking about "easy" there are other aspects to consider.

    • Why is it illegal? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @06:45AM (#31328032) Journal

      They didn't rob the bank.

      They didn't print fake dollar bill.

      Every single dollar that they paid good money for purchasing the tickets are REAL money.

      What's illegal about what they have done??

      • by bguiz (1627491)

        Q:

        What's illegal about what they have done??

        A: Nothing

        IANAL, but I think parent is right in saying that these guys have actually not done anything illegal

        The issue here is more of morality: while they didn't actually scam anyone per se, as a direct result of their actions, thousands of legitimate concert-goers had to pay more for their tickets than they should have needed to. In other words, they were sneaky and manipulated all these people into paying them more $.

        ...

        OTOH, it is possible that the ticket vendors had some sort of legal agreemen

        • by rinoid (451982)

          Gee, smells like unbridled capitalism to me. But what would I know? I'm a socialist/libertarian.

        • Indeed, ticket scalping is almost as old as humankind, and illegal for almost as long. In the olden days, ticket scalpers just bought their tickets in normal brick-and-mortar pre-sale places, and then sold them on the day of the event to the people in the queue. Many people are poor planners, don't get tickets in time, and are quite "happy" to buy them at over-inflated prices from the scalpers.

          But the thing is, if "all" the tickets hadn't been scooped up by scalpers, there would still have been legitimate

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by amicusNYCL (1538833)

          IANAL, but I think parent is right in saying that these guys have actually not done anything illegal

          Did you even consider reading the indictment? It's linked to from TFA. Or are you just going to assume you know all the facts, and make your judgement? Maybe the government lawyers were just winging it when they wrote up a 43-count federal indictment, right? Here's a hint: one of the things they did was break into other people's networks to steal source code. Maybe that's not illegal in your world, but it is in the one where they got charged.

          BTW, writing "IANAL" is not an excuse for ignorance. I've ne

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by twisteddk (201366)

        It's illegal because the artist, locationowner and distribution company are the ones supposed to make the money off the tickets, so a fixed price is agreed upon, and the royalties etc. are contractually determined in advance. Anything more is "scalping" because the scalper gets the money rather than the artist, who is usually the recipient of up to 50% of the ticket sales.

        So if 20.000 tickets are sold for $50 each, thats $1M, of which half goes to the artist. Simple math. BUT, if 1000 of those tickets are s

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by peragrin (659227)

          that's just it they paid retail for tickets so the artist and the stadiums made the money they thought they were going to anyways.

          scalpers usually buy tickets at normal prices and then sell them for more. now sometimes they do under cut the theaters or staduims but most of their money is on big games. were the $30 cheep seats suddenly become worth $70 or more.

        • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @07:47AM (#31328302)

          Copyright?
          Where the hell does copyright come into this?
          They're not printing extra tickets.

          So if 20.000 tickets are sold for $50 each, thats $1M, of which half goes to the artist. Simple math. BUT, if 1000 of those tickets are sold for say, $100, by the terms of the contract, the artist is supposed to get half of 19.000x$50 + 1000x$100 and who pays the extra ?

          Nobody.
          and that's how it should be.
          If the artist wanted $50 per ticket rather than $25 per ticket then they should have sold them for more in the first place.

          If I make a game, print 20,000 disks and sell for $50 each, thats $1M and if I've got a particularly lucrative contract as the developer I get half. Simple math.
          BUT, if 1000 of those tickets are bough by someone, I get my 250K cut and then they sell those games second hand to someone else for $100 each and make a profit then that's their buisness.
          I've already got my cut.
          I have no right to a cut of their second hand sales.

          If I wanted more then I should have charged more in the first place.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by jabberw0k (62554)

          Horsefeathers.

          All the parties have already made their money on the tickets.

          The "scalper" only makes money by selling a scarce item at what the market will bear. Had the tickets been priced higher, he could only lose money. Besides, it's a dicey business because if as a "scalper," you set your price too high, you're gonna lose everything.

          Pure supply and demand. "Scalping" is the best proof of free markets anywhere.

      • by AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @07:00AM (#31328102)
        Impersonating a person, resale of tickets where (commercial) resale is illegal, fraud, illegal use of computer resources (botnets) and pissed of alot of people who actually wanted to buy tickets but were unable to.
        When AC/DC toured last year these asses their botnets overloaded the official ticketsale sites preventing any real customer to even access them, in Belgium the sites were unreachable 2 days before the sale even started.
        If i had my way, ticket scalpers would be scalped for real.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)

          Belgium the sites were unreachable 2 days before the sale even started.

          And what makes you think that was due to automation? Don't forget we ourselves have taken down a server or two in our times.

        • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @09:31AM (#31328886) Homepage
          Although the indictment [wired.com] makes heavy use of the word "bot", Wiseguys did not use viruses or trojans to create their bot farm. They paid for it themselves, with their own computers, purchasing varied IP addresses from varied ISPs across the U.S. to prevent Ticketmaster's et al IP address blocking.

          In the old days, ticket wholesalers would hire hobos to stand in physical line. In the Internet era, is it now necessary for ticket wholesalers to not only put a hobo in front of a computer, but to apply for a credit card for the hobo as well? And this is because Slashdot readers now all of a sudden support click-through EULA's on websites? The crux of the indictment is that Wiseguys defeated Ticketmaster's et al human identification by defeating Captchas and using purchased varied IP addresses.

          The ticket windows (Ticketmaster et al) are trying to engage in price control, which never works. Ticket windows had limited success in outlawing ticket brokers. Now in the Internet era it seems ticket windows have discovered a legal avenue to harass the ticket brokers by calling automated Captcha completion "hacking".

          Wiseguys never engaged in malware or theft. They merely sought to purchase what the ticket windows had for sale in response to the market distortions -- in the form of price controls -- the ticket windows had set up.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by asdf7890 (1518587)

        What's illegal about what they have done??

        There system obtained access to resource (the tickets) under false pretences (pretending to be different individual people rather than one organisation). That, I believe, is fraud.

        Anyway, the poster you replied to stated "legitimately", not "legally". In common parlance "legitimate" covers both "legal" and "moral", and taking advantage of people in this way is generally seen as NotTheDoneThing. If you had to pay twice as much (or sometimes it can be several times as much) for something that you wanted simpl

        • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @09:12AM (#31328716) Homepage Journal

          Then simply don't buy the overpriced tickets, and these guys will go out of business very quickly. If people are stupid enough to pay the hiked up prices, why shouldn't these guys do it? I fail to see anything illegal in what they're doing any more than if a supermarket buys up a whole bunch of coffee or rice and sells it on to their customers at a higher price, or McDonalds and Burger King making insane profits on their drinks.

      • by krou (1027572)
        They like broke the terms of service of the site in question, which is probably where the illegality lies.
      • Big corporations put their computers physically close to the stock exchange to have that nanosecond advantage for their automatic buying / selling machines. But that is obviously OK.
      • every sunday a guy shows up with 20 bags of flour. the townspeople line up and buy the flour from the guy, $2/ a bag

        one sunday, this asshole shows up really early, buys all 20 bags for $40, turns around and faces the townsfolk and says "ok, that will be $5 a bag from each of you"

        understand the illegality yet?

        incidentally, this puts the lie to libertarians and free market fundamentalists who believe the market is healthiest when left alone. a healthy market needs to be heavily policed by the government to be

        • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @09:16AM (#31328748) Homepage Journal

          understand the illegality yet?

          Nope.. if the townspeople simply refuse to buy the flour at that price (either doing without flour for the week or buying from a different location), the asshole is down $40. If people know that most of what they're paying is pure profit and yet still pay the price, they're simply idiots. This is exactly how a free market is supposed to work.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheKidWho (705796)

          Perfectly, if people are willing to pay $5/bag for it. If they're not, then the guy will have 19 useless bags of flour. What will most likely happen is someone else will come in and offer cheaper flour, it's the nature of the market since such a high price will create a deadweight loss. Free market at work.

          At the end of the day, isn't that what the supermarket does anyways? They buy flour for $x and then they resell it for $x+$y. What keeps them in check? Competition from other supermarkets.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Aquitaine (102097)

          >> understand the illegality yet?

          No.

          >> , and so some people like you can't appreciate their evil up front.

          Good thing we have you around to protect us from ourselves!

          This is mickey mouse Econ 101 stuff. The only way your scenario ends in 'people starve' is if there is only one supplier of flour (i.e. flour is controlled by a monopoly). Even libertarians (many of us, anyway) agree that monopolies have to be treated a little differently, at least in cases where the nebulous 'public good' is involve

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      To be honest I don't see what they have done wrong. Their actions are no different from normal retailing. You buy low at a bulk supplier and sell high to individuals.

      Sellers could cut them out by raising their prices so that demand matches supply.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by RuBLed (995686)
        They are an unnecessary middle man. In line with your comparison, they are hoarding the goods from the ones selling to individuals themselves then raise the price because they now have most of the supply.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Arathrael (742381)

        Sellers could cut them out by raising their prices so that demand matches supply.

        And wouldn't that be great? Instead of the venue, artists, promoters, ticketing agencies, etc., all covering their costs and making a healthy profit, they could... make a bigger profit. Woohoo!

        Of course, for the millions of people attending events, they'd be spending a lot more than they were, or able to attend fewer events, especially if they want to sit in anything remotely resembling a good seat. And front row seats would on

        • Or, maybe, just maybe, in the interests of culture, fixed price ticketing is actually a good thing...

          So then how do you distribute tickets, other than having a mad, random rush to sell them in the first few seconds they are on sale?

          • by Arathrael (742381)

            So then how do you distribute tickets, other than having a mad, random rush to sell them in the first few seconds they are on sale?

            Registries of interest. Membership sales and similar schemes. Lotteries. Pre-sales. Phased sales. You know, any of the many ways that are already used.

            There isn't a perfect solution where everyone who wants to go to an event where demand exceeds capacity can go. But pricing according to demand is probably, culturally speaking, just about the worst solution you could come up with

          • by Comboman (895500) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @09:13AM (#31328722)

            So then how do you distribute tickets, other than having a mad, random rush to sell them in the first few seconds they are on sale?

            How about an auction? The first tickets released would get bid up to insane levels by superfans/rich a-holes who want to guarantee they get a seat. Once that high demand level is filled, the medium demand audience bids up tickets to medium prices, then whatever is left over purchased at lower prices by the low demand audience. This type of price discrimination [wikipedia.org] allows multiple price points for otherwise identical products without having a middleman (i.e. the scalper) cutting into the profits of the artists/promoters/venues.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @09:40AM (#31328960) Homepage Journal

      Wouldn't it have been easier just to make the money legitimately?

      I'm still trying to figure out how what these guys did was wrong.

      The real criminals are the monopolists at Live Nation and Ticketmaster, whose merger will create an entity that controls over eighty percent of the live concert promotions business [wordpress.com], and who already demand a $12.50 "service" charge for the privilege of being able to buy a ticket online and another $2.50 just so you can print the ticket out on your own printer. (I guess that last fee is just a penalty they make you pay because you are saving them the cost of having to print and ship a ticket. No good deed goes unpunished, you know.)

      The question now, is "just how high can ticket prices go?".

      There used to be mom-and-pop music promoters in just about every town in America, putting on live music in bars, parks, gymnasiums and VFW halls. They've created musical venues that allow musicians of all types to ply their wares and make a living. That's going to end now that Live Nation/Ticketmaster are going to create a $4.4 billion behemoth [rollingstone.com] that's going to put the small promoters out of business and control nearly every single live venue.

      You know what? These scalpers aren't the problem here. When a system sucks this bad, why shouldn't scalpers game it? You want a "free market" system? Welcome to life.

      Personally, I stopped going to the "big" concerts some years ago specifically because of the Ticketmasters and Live Nations (now one entity), and I go to see music in much smaller venues as often as I can, hoping to support the music and not put money in a monopoly. Now, that's going to be harder because at some level almost every dollar spent on live music will be going to these bastards. Maybe I'll just start putting all my entertainment dollars into the hats and guitar cases of the many excellent buskers that inhabit the streets of my city (at least once winter ends).

    • Scalping is a legitimate profession that serves a useful spot in the market. They provide convenience for customers, and help event ticket pricers determine what people are willing to pay. Not to mention the "scalpers" who are individuals trying to get their money back, for whatever reason - whether due to time conflict, or emergency financial situation, etc.

      Or rather, scalping *would* be a legitimate profession, if people would embrace them, rather than try to shut them down.
  • A friend of mine mentioned when the technology just came out that you could just setup a 'free pr0n' website and you would get a horde of humans entering the letters for you for real cheap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jonbryce (703250)

      That probably works for creating hotmail accounts to send spam from, but not if you need to solve hundreds of thousands of capatchas in the space of a couple of seconds at 7am when the tickets are released for sale.

      • Except, as here, it can be done in advance. Once you can generate an ID of that image -- and that can mean simply a hash value of it -- you can store it in a database, and use it in that small window of oportunity when you need it.

        Virtually every captcha I've seen applies a transformation or two of that image, from a small set of effects. So effectively you can end up with just one image for a given word, or a small finite set of distinct images. Add to that the fact that most use words from the dictionary,

  • Wiseguy?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mrthoughtful (466814) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @06:47AM (#31328048) Journal

    Any company calling itself "Wiseguy" is surely going to pull some heat. It's like having a prescription signed "Dr A. Fraud."

  • Well done. (Score:5, Funny)

    by aerthling (796790) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @06:49AM (#31328056)

    $25m seems an entirely adequate reward for circumventing reCAPTCHA.

  • 'They wrote a script that impersonated users trying to access Facebook, and downloaded hundreds of thousands of possible CAPTCHA challenges from reCAPTCHA. They identified the file ID of each CAPTCHA challenge and created a database of CAPTCHA "answers" to correspond to each ID.

    So how did they generate the answers? Did they brute force them with a dictionary search? Or was there some other technique their hired programmers used, but which was not described in the article?

  • by BartholomewBernsteyn (1720348) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @06:55AM (#31328082)

    In his Glitter and Doom tour, Tom Waits pioneered an effective anti scalpers scheme.

    Tickets for Waits' summer shows were limited to two per person but, in an effort to beat ticket touts, a valid I.D. (passport or driving licence) matching the name on the ticket was required to gain entry. Any concert-goer who did not have a valid I.D. or was found to be in possession of a ticket that had been resold – electronic scanners were employed – was not allowed in and did not get a refund.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glitter_and_Doom_Tour#Tickets [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Canazza (1428553)

      That wouldn't stop scalpers. Idiots would still buy them, especially if they claimed that these tickets didn't need ID.

      The buyer wouldn't get into the concert, be out of pocket, and the scammer would have upped and legged it long before.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by noackjr (541550)

      Tickets for Waits' summer shows were limited to two per person but, in an effort to beat ticket touts, a valid I.D. (passport or driving licence) matching the name on the ticket was required to gain entry. Any concert-goer who did not have a valid I.D. or was found to be in possession of a ticket that had been resold – electronic scanners were employed – was not allowed in and did not get a refund.

      If you RTFA (I know...), you'll note:

      The perpetrators took orders from ticket brokers, who were required to provide credit card numbers and account holder names in advance of a purchase so they could be programmed into the bot.

      All they would have to do to defeat the ID requirement is add that to the list of items they need to purchase the tickets. And people would still pay extra to them because 1) they wouldn't have to try very hard to get a ticket, and 2) they would have a much higher chance of getting a ticket.

    • In the United States, state-issued IDs are associated with age-restricted products and services. A minor can't drive, vote, get a job, see an R-rated movie, or buy tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, or over-the-counter medication. So a lot of children just don't have a state-issued ID. Requiring every ticket holder to have a valid ID to attend a concert would block such children from attending. That would work for Tom Waits but not for any of several acts that are popular with preteens, such as the Jonas Br
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by plastbox (1577037)

        And that would be a bad thing how exactly? Less brainwashing of our youngsters, and very easy to bag'n'tag the freakoes who attend the latest Disney "pre-teen pop-queen" shows despite not having the kids there as an excuse. ^^

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gnasher719 (869701)

      In his Glitter and Doom tour, Tom Waits pioneered an effective anti scalpers scheme.

      A different, simple scheme that benefits the artist: Once the venue is sold out (say 90% to scalpers) announce another concert on the next day. If that gets sold out, do another and so on. Result: Lots of money for the artist, who will play in many sold out but mostly empty halls. No money for scalpers.

    • Pioneered? Glastonbury Festival (a huge music and arts festival in the South West of England) has been doing this for years - tickets are issued to named persons with photos being printed on the ticket, and that person has to show official ID on entry along with the ticket. Named and details are checked against the ticket and the purchasing database, and any negative matches are turned away.
  • why user agent knows all info required to identify captcha and why this identification info is unique. Somebody designed weak captcha system and it was broken. End of story.
  • Dutch Auction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @07:04AM (#31328126)

    How about a dutch auction?

    Start the price offensively high, and drop it as the concert date approaches. The organiser gets paid the price the market will bear, the scalpers are out of the loop - because by definition, anyone willing to pay a stupid price for a guaranteed ticket will already have paid it.

    You still get the same effective problem - that rich fans are prioritised over poor fans, but more money goes to the artist and the organiser, so they could throw a few benefit concerts or something to sweeten the deal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by twisteddk (201366)

      I like the idea, but for all practical intents it's almost impossible to do.
      Because you'd then have to auction off each seat in an order determined by order of importance, which would be logistically a nightmare with up to 100.000 seats available for an event.

      For instance: I can afford to pay $500 for two tickets to a concert, but I want the best possible. If I wait for the best tickets to drop in price, they may sell out before they reach the pricelevel I'm willing to pay, so I need to buy the second best

      • by jlar (584848)

        Because you'd then have to auction off each seat in an order determined by order of importance, which would be logistically a nightmare with up to 100.000 seats available for an event.

        I don't think that is true. They can just let a succesful bidder choose whatever remaining seat he wants. The seller does not have to decide which seat is the best for you. That way you can just wait until the price falls to $250 per ticket and grab the best seats available.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by BlackHawk-666 (560896)

          This makes plenty of sense. In any concert there are bandings of seating with a price attached. The better the view, the more expensive the seat. This is worked out in advance by the venue based on their 'values', but really it is the view and values of the ticket holder that matter.

          So, price starts at $1 million and slowly drops as the cut off date for purchasing a ticket approaches.

          If the guy who spent $1 million for his seat wants to sit to the left side of the back row - who are we to tell him he can't

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jonadab (583620)
        > If I wait for the best tickets to drop in price,
        > they may sell out before they reach the pricelevel
        > I'm willing to pay, so I need to buy the second best
        > tickets, but these sold out at $100 even earlier.

        This is easily solved, and along with it the problem that some people might rank the seats differently than others (e.g., one guy wants to be right in front of the speakers, and somebody else would rather be near the center of the stage).

        The solution is simple: all the tickets are the same p
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oever (233119)

      The 'clock' in a dutch auction takes about 30 seconds to go to zero. That means that a sequential auction for 100.000 tickets would take about a month. That should give all people interested ample opportunity to attempt to buy a ticket at the desired price.

      However, just like the stock exchange, the day price of a ticket would depend on psychological factors. That means that the price would fluctuate and the a price that is perceived high one day is percieved low another day. This creates opportunity for tic

    • Re:Dutch Auction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @08:01AM (#31328372)

      How about a dutch auction?

      Start the price offensively high, and drop it as the concert date approaches. The organiser gets paid the price the market will bear, the scalpers are out of the loop - because by definition, anyone willing to pay a stupid price for a guaranteed ticket will already have paid it.

      You still get the same effective problem - that rich fans are prioritised over poor fans, but more money goes to the artist and the organiser, so they could throw a few benefit concerts or something to sweeten the deal.

      The problem is promoters and talent want two things - sold out venues and maximum price per ticket. Scalpers act as a hedge against lost sales and inaccurate demand / pricing - they take the risk of getting stuck with tickets or losing money; something promoters don't want to accept themselves. Dutch auctions would probably condition people to wait because they learn prices will fill - which causes prices to fall - and promoters have no idea how much money they make nad when. They hate scalpers because, in their mind, they are taking "their" money; and convenientlyignore the risk mitigation role.

      Laws barring reselling of tickets, IMHO, merely serve to restrict the market and raise ticket prices overall so promoters can make more money. There is no rational reason to bar ticket reselling anymore than to bar reselling of any other good.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rho (6063)

        I doubt that most of the "scalped" tickets are actually sold by scalpers. Most are probably sold by friends and employees of the event and/or venue.

        Think about it--before tickets go on sale, roadies and janitors get a chance to buy premium seats at face value, maybe even with an employee discount. The performers don't care, the venue doesn't have to pay employment taxes on this unofficial employee benefit, and the employee gets some extra cash.

  • by wheelema (46997) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @07:04AM (#31328128)

    Between WiseGuy's and Goldman Sachs? Both use computers to game their respective markets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shivetya (243324)

      they donate to politicians?

      Seems to be the difference between acceptable and not acceptable is how in favor you are with the politicians who write the laws.

  • by chaboud (231590) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @07:06AM (#31328142) Homepage Journal

    It's not illegal to resell tickets above face value in most states (check out stub hub [stubhub.com] for TicketMaster's very own foray into person-to-person ticket sales), and business can be conducted in alternate states with more lax restrictions on ticket resale.

    Beyond that, smoking a CAPTCHA system with a bit of cleverness is not hacking or unauthorized access in any reasonable way. This is just a ridiculous attempt to criminalize scuzzy, crappy, opportunistic behavior on the part of one party (scalpers) at the expense of another scuzzy, crappy, opportunistic party (TicketMaster). This strikes me as another case of people trying to misuse the law to remedy the unexpected (only by idiots) defeat of a faulty system. If one reads the article, it seems like Wiseguys (seriously? That's your name?) made purchases on behalf of ticket brokers (ticket-broker is to scalper as escort is to hooker) with detection-avoiding measures in place to keep TicketMaster from blocking the regulars.

    It's an attempt by TicketMaster to wipe the egg off of their face, a face that most of America hates with a passion. Perhaps they should find a better way (reverse auction, anyone?) to find the natural market price instead of using time-release scarcity to spur impulse-buys that inevitably result in person-to-person ticket resale later on stub hub [stubhub.com] where they get to come back for a second skim off the top...

    Oh.. right...

  • Anyone who sells a ticket for more than its face value (with a suitable legal definition of "face value") would be hit in a big way. Any tickets they are in possession of would be forfeited back to the event organizer (who could go ahead and resell them)

    If the penalty is serious enough (say jail or huge fines) scalpers wont bother.

    Event organizers/ticket sellers could limit the number of tickets they will sell to any one person (so scalpers cant come in and buy 50-100 tickets or whatever)

    • by deniable (76198)
      They already limit the number of tickets people can buy in one hit and how exactly do they know if the ticket was resold?
  • by cvtan (752695) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @07:39AM (#31328276)
    that Stubhub is owned by Ticketmaster? I can't believe this. The last two times I tried to get into concerts at the Rochester Auditorium Theater and the War Memorial (Blue Cross Arena), it was difficult. Somehow all the good seats vanished almost immediately. But no, there are seats that magically appear on Stubhub. All you have to do is pay $300 for a $75 seat. Infuriated, I refused (obviously, I've been out of the loop for a while). So for one concert I bought tickets from someone on eBay (double the face value!) and for the other I just got cheap tickets in a poor location. Apparently this kind of poor service has no effect since the venues are sold out anyway. This makes me not want to go to events like this and just buy the DVD! Maybe you have to be a teenager to put up with this BS. I still have the antiquated belief that ticket resellers should not make more money than the artists or promoters. You don't see Wallstreet brokers doing this. Oh, wait...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by inviolet (797804)

      that Stubhub is owned by Ticketmaster? I can't believe this. The last two times I tried to get into concerts at the Rochester Auditorium Theater and the War Memorial (Blue Cross Arena), it was difficult. Somehow all the good seats vanished almost immediately. But no, there are seats that magically appear on Stubhub. All you have to do is pay $300 for a $75 seat. Infuriated, I refused (obviously, I've been out of the loop for a while). So for one concert I bought tickets from someone on eBay (double the face

  • From the article

    The perpetrators took orders from ticket brokers, who were required to provide credit card numbers and account holder names in advance of a purchase so they could be programmed into the bot. Once the account holders received the tickets, they'd send them to Wiseguy, which would refund their credit card account. Wiseguy also had a bank of about 1,000 phone numbers that the bot submitted as customer contact numbers.

    So the tickets were payed. That is not the issue. Wether reselling should be allowed or not is another matter. What I am worried about is that they abused the credit card numbers of other people.

  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @08:00AM (#31328364) Homepage

    Wow ,,,,

  • by bryan1945 (301828) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @08:16AM (#31328424) Journal

    Is this like the South Park episode where Butters earned $300 million theoretical Internet dollars?

  • by pongo000 (97357) on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @09:05AM (#31328674)

    Ticket scalpers and domain squatters: Love 'em or hate 'em!

    Sometimes I believe /.ers are pissed at these types because they didn't think of the idea first.

    It's a free market (after all, don't markets want to be free?)...I say kudos to them for figuring out how to scam the scam.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (10) Sorry, but that's too useful.

Working...