U.S. Scalpers Charged for Allegedly Hacking Online Ticketing Services and Making Off with $29 Million in Profit
Published Mar 02, 2010Four men from California were charged yesterday (March 1) for using sophisticated technology to bypass online ticketing limitations in order to buy and scalp tickets to highly anticipated events. Through the scheme, the group made an estimated profit of $29 million U.S. off of ticket resales between 2005 and 2008.
The 43-count indictment stated that the four men and their company, Wiseguy Tickets, Inc., impersonated human beings buying tickets online from sources like Ticketmaster and the Major League Baseball ticketing website, according to the CBC. The foursome worked with programmers in Bulgaria, who helped them devise a way to fool Captcha (the mechanism that requires you to type in characters to prove that you're not a program, but a human) by creating databases of answers to the character-based questions posed by the mechanism ahead of purchasing.
The group's program was able to beat the mechanisms and complete the ticket transactions far faster than manual ticket-buyers, so Wiseguy tickets ended up with, in one case, nearly half of 440 floor seats to a 2008 Bruce Springsteen concert.
Californians Kenneth Lowson, Kristofer Kirsch, Faisal Nahdi and Joel Stevenson, all in their late 30s/early 40s, were charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and unauthorized computer access. Only one of the four mens' lawyers has so far commented, that being Lowson's legal rep Mark Rush, who has called the indictment "disheartening" and said that what his client did was simply a more sophisticated version of getting friends together to camp out at a ticketing booth to get tickets as soon as the sales open.
"All these guys really did was invent a better mousetrap to buy tickets," Rush said. "That's all."
At least Wiseguy Tickets Inc. wasn't selling tickets that didn't exist.