Just days ahead of the Beijing Olympics opening, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and US Olympic Committee have filed a lawsuit in the US to shut down a fraudulent Internet site offering non-existent Olympic tickets after receiving complaints from around the world.
The bogus site (www.beijingtickets.com) is believed to have raked in an estimated US$50 million worldwide. At least six other websites are believed to be selling non-existent or illegitimate tickets to the Games.
The global Internet scam is based in Arizona, in the US, has been offering tickets to numerous events that were sold out months ago, and boasts of offices New York, London and Sydney. The site carries the official Beijing Games logo.
According to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), organizers of the event in Beijing, tickets for events in Beijing were sold out last week. Only tickets for events in co-host cities are still available.
“We thought we were making a legitimate purchase,” Chante Parthak, whose family had bought about $5,000 worth of tickets from the site, told a Canadian newspaper. She now plans to claim her losses from Visa. “Tickets offered on other sites were not only expensive, but hard to come by. It was hard to get tickets for the closing ceremony.”
News reports from Australia also quoted a buyer from Brisbane spent $42,000 for tickets that didn’t arrive. “It appears to be a worldwide scam,” Tony Robinson, Minister of consumer affairs for Victoria state, said. “It appears a lot of people have been taken in by a very professional scam, a worldwide scam.”
Families of Olympic athletes in the US, Canada, Japan, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and even China are reportedly among those who have fallen victim to the scam.
Jim Moriarity, a US lawyer based in Houston who lost $12,000, plans to also represent other victims in subsequent legal actions against the IOC. “They know about these sites for months, but did nothing. They have now dashed the hopes and reams of thousands of people who have been planning for years to go to the Games, and paid thousands of dollars for tickets and airfares.”
“The worst thing is some people don’t even know yet they have bought tickets that won’t arrive, ” said John Coates, Australian Olympic Committee president. “Buyers should only deal with authorized ticket suppliers.”