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Olympic ticket sales will be monitored

October 31, 2008|Greg Johnson | Johnson is a Times staff writer.

Vancouver 2010 Winter Games officials say they are instituting safeguards to help limit the kind of online fraud that resulted in hundreds of Beijing Games-bound tourists being sold what turned out to be bogus tickets to athletic events and the opening and closing ceremonies.

The failure to deliver promised tickets has prompted at least one civil lawsuit in the U.S. against a Canadian company. And, while the U.S. Secret Service has declined to comment, its Electronic Crimes Task Force has been talking to consumers who paid steep premiums to another ticketing and travel agency for Beijing Games admissions that never materialized.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee intends to rein in illegal ticket sales and outright fraud by "attacking this problem on multiple fronts," said Cayley Denton, the organization's vice president of ticketing and consumer marketing. "But the most important thing for people to know is that they can only buy tickets from an authorized vendor."

A total of 1.6 million admission tickets will be sold before the Olympic torch is lit on Feb. 12, 2010.

In the U.S., consumers must buy tickets from Co- Sport, the Far Hills, N.J.-based company that also was the official ticket agency for the Beijing Games. CoSport began accepting ticket requests early in October and will close its online ticket window on Nov. 7.

Vancouver Games tickets sold through CoSport and other authorized vendors will incorporate bar codes that Games organizers will use to determine whether those Olympic fans who are lucky enough to receive tickets are heeding strict resale rules. Regulations prohibit the resale of Olympic tickets to companies that turn around and package them in costly Vancouver hospitality packages.

Vancouver organizers will use a "secret shopper" program to buy tickets from unauthorized resellers.

Even though tickets won't be issued until next year, the Internet is awash with Vancouver Games marketing ploys by unauthorized vendors. One Canadian company's website, for example, promises "tickets to every Winter Games event, including the spectacular Opening and Closing Ceremonies."

That company, Roadtrips Inc., is a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed Oct. 7 in Houston. The lawsuit seeks $5 million on behalf of 326 consumers, including a Sacramento couple, who paid for tickets to the Beijing opening ceremony -- tickets that never materialized.

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greg.johnson@latimes.com

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