Over 100 websites have been targeted in a police operation targeting the selling of fake tickets for football matches. Police claim the action is the biggest concerted shut down campaign they have ever conducted.
The Police Central E-crime Unit (PCeU), which is part of London's Metropolitan Police Service, said that it worked with the Football Association and Trading Standards to target sellers of fake or non-existent tickets.
Sites had advertised tickets for matches in England's Premier League, charged high prices and then sent fake tickets or none at all.
"Fraudsters capitalise on the victim's desire to attend an event knowing that they will pay out for the opportunity to be present at that all important one-off event," said Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie from the PCeU. "The risk begins when your desire to purchase the tickets blinds your judgment or leads you to unlawful websites. If it looks too good to be true it probably is."
A statement from the Met said that the force worked with hosting companies to have specific material taken off websites or the websites themselves closed down.
"Today's operation is the first time any law enforcement agency have shut down this many sites in unison," said McMurdie. "[This] demonstrates our unit's commitment to tackling this issue head-on, with a clear message to those who abuse the internet for their own criminal gains that we will not tolerate this type of activity."
Police trawled sites looking for sites that defrauded fans and also acted on fan tip-offs, the Met said. They said that the operation had been going on for over a year.
Police warned that fake sites are increasingly sophisticated and difficult to tell from genuine ones.
Consumer advice and advocacy organisation Consumer Direct has published guidance for people tempted to buy tickets from agents.
"Beware of fraudulent online ticket sites and don't be fooled by a site which looks professional," says the guidance. "Also beware of sellers who make promises that sound too good to be true – such as being able to sell cheap tickets for sold out events or offering tickets before they are officially on sale. Look at internet forums to see if others have had bad experiences and check the company's geographic address and contact numbers."