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Woman indicted for Taiwanese promoter scam

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office has reportedly charged a woman with fraud and forgery, for posing as a promoter for concerts by K-Pop groups, Mandopop star Andy Lau and Singaporean musician JJ Lin.

According to the Taipei Times, Chao Chung-ling is accused of defrauding six people who invested TWD 4.84 million (US$159,000) in her business after she claimed she was promoting a concert by Lau in Taiwan last year.

The individual in question, reportedly the proprietor of Taipei-based agency FD Model Co, had previously received TWD 4m ($132,000) from separate investors for a concert tour by K-pop band VIXX.

The report also states that Chao sought an investment of TWD 800,000 ($26,000) in January last year, again claiming she was putting on an Andy Lau show in Taiwan.

The Asian live industry has seen its fair share of scams in recent years

Chao was also allegedly sued last year by claimants who said they lost TWD 40m ($1.3m) on a concert she claimed she was promoting for K-pop superstars BTS. In another claim, an investor said he gave Chao TWD 6m ($198,000) for a series of dates by Taiwanese hip-hop band 911.

The Asian live industry has seen its fair share of scams in recent years. Last year, promoters, festivals and venues across Asia were contacted by bogus ‘agents’ claiming to represent artists such as Lady Gaga, Eminem, Rihanna and System of a Down.

More recently, several South Korean industry insiders were accused of defrauding promoters and investors of more than $4m by posing as representatives of BTS’ management company, Big Hit Entertainment.

Similar scams targeted European promoters in 2018, which saw fraudsters pose as representatives of Adele, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé and more.

Photo: Huandy618/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)

 


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WiZink Center reports 1.2k fake tickets in 2019

More than 1,200 fans were denied entry to Madrid’s 16,000-capacity WiZink Center last year, having purchased false or duplicated tickets from unofficial platforms.

According to a report by the venue, there has been an “alarming increase in ticket fraud” in recent months, as fraudsters “capitalise on high demand and sophisticated technology to deceive fans who want to buy tickets at any price.”

In all cases, tickets had been purchased from secondary ticketing sites or through resale between individuals, either online or via street touts.

As reported in the International Ticketing Yearbook 2019, secondary ticketing has long been a controversial issue in Spain and has been raised at government level. However, according to promoters’ association APM, concrete action is yet to be taken.

In May last year, Anatic, the association for secondary ticketing in Spain, warned against the fraudulent behaviour of many resellers and called for regulation and professionalisation of the sector.

To avoid more fans falling foul of fraudsters, the arena – the biggest in Spain – has launched an awareness campaign, disseminating advice to fans through banners on its website and other digital platforms.

“This is a problem that affects us directly, given that we are the ones who end up denying entry”

“This is a problem that affects us directly,” says Almudena Requena, director of ticketing at the WiZink Center, “given that we are the ones who end up denying entry to people with these kinds of tickets. This places a responsibility on us that we are not accountable for.”

Eugeni Calsamiglia, general director of Ticketmaster Spain, says that although it has always been advisable to buy ticket through official channels, it is now “essential”.

“Current access control systems detect 100% of false or duplicated tickets,” explains Calsamiglia, “so the risk of not being able to enter a concert with a ticket bought on an unofficial channel is high.”

The arena reminds fans that, unlike tickets bought through unauthorised channels, tickets purchased from its online box office or through other official sellers also protect against cancellations and date changes.

Upcoming concerts at the WiZink Center include Halsey, Jonas Brothers, Maluma, Bon Iver and Dua Lipa.

Photo: Luis García/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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Bogus booking agents arrested in New York

Two women who allegedly scammed a charity out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by posing as booking agents for artists including Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Drake and Ed Sheeran have been arrested by police in New York.

Under the name Canvas Media Group, Nancy Jean and Carissa Scott conspired to defraud investors in events including a benefit concert for the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, set up by relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, according to prosecutors.

As alleged in the US district attorney for eastern New York’s complaint against the pair, Jean and Scott were contacted last September by the organiser of a concert at the 64,000-seat Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, in aid of the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation.

Prosecutors say Canvas Media “falsely represented that they could book top-tier musical acts to perform at the concert, and provided the investor with a contract for a total fee of [US]$500,000 that purported to commit Timberlake to perform”.

One investor in the benefit show then sent a $100,000 deposit to Jean and Scott, which they allegedly later used for personal expenses or withdrew as cash.

“Subsequently, when Timberlake’s social media account failed to mention or promote the event, the investor requested confirmation that Timberlake was booked,” the complaint continues. “In response, the investor received a telephone call from an unidentified individual who falsely claimed to be Timberlake’s manager. The unidentified individual stated that Timberlake would perform at the concert, but that the fee would have to be raised to between $800,000 and $1 million.”

“Simple stealing is bad enough, this is worse”

When the investor baulked at the increased ‘fee’, Canvas Media said Bruno Mars could perform instead of Timberlake for $600,000.

Scott also reportedly claimed she could book other top-tier artists for the concert, including Drake, Flo Rida and Ed Sheeran.

“As alleged, the defendants viewed a fundraiser for a charity formed to protect children from gun violence as an opportunity to commit fraud and line their own pockets,” comments Richard Donoghue, United States attorney for the eastern district of New York. “Simple stealing is bad enough, this is worse.”

According to the New York Post, Jean and Scott have been banned from working as agents or promoters while awaiting trial.

William Sweeney Jnr, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, says: “Nancy Jean and Carissa Scott may have been able to realise a quick profit as a result of their alleged fraudulent booking scheme, but not long after their illegal activity took off they landed in New York to face federal criminal charges.

“It’s discouraging to think these defendants were willing to defraud an investor supporting a charity foundation. Fortunately, the FBI doesn’t entertain such activity.”

Justin Timberlake is no stranger to agency scams, having been one of a number of high-profile artists targeted by scammers pretending to be his representative, alongside artists such as Adele, Eminem and Mark Knopfler.

 


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Korean ‘industry pros’ implicated in $4m K-pop scam

Several South Korean industry insiders have been accused of defrauding promoters and investors out of more than ₩5 billion (US$4 million) by posing as representatives of BTS’s management company, Big Hit Entertainment.

According to The Fact (via Allkpop), a total of 11 music companies, primarily small and medium-sized promoters, were targeted by concert professionals ‘K’ and ‘D’, who forged Big Hit contracts and took ‘deposits’ – ranging from ₩150m ($130,000) to ₩1.4bn ($1.2m) – for non-existent BTS shows.

In one typical example, The Fact reports, an Indonesian promoter put down a deposit for a BTS concert due to take place some time between November 2019 and February 2020. The ‘fee’ for the show is listed as US$2.8m, with the number of concertgoers estimated at 50,000.

Other individuals involved in the alleged scam include a famous actor, ‘A’, and their manager, ‘Seok’, who posed to Chinese investors as a Big Hit Entertainment board member.

One of the victims, ‘L’, says: “The manager, ‘Seok’, deceived them by saying that he holds the rights to distribute BTS transportation cards at ‘C Entertainment’, an agency created by him and ‘A’. The Chinese investors believed the stories of the famous Korean actor and his manager and invested about ₩800m [$685,000] in distributing the fake cards.”

“The Chinese investors believed the stories … and invested about ₩800m”

Other victims include companies based in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong company, reports Soompi, realised they had been scammed after a concert due to take place in the city-state did not go ahead.

‘K’ was reportedly arrested on 9 November and is being held in a detention centre in Seoul. Police believe he has a history of posing as other Korean artists and their representatives, including Exo, Super Junior, Lee Min Ho and Sistar.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Big Hit says the company was unaware the scammers were posing as its employees. “We did not learn about this ‘fake document’ until we received photos of the reports,” it reads. “The contracts depicted in the photos [obtained by The Fact] are fake documents, and have nothing to do with Big Hit Entertainment. When we confirm specific details of such crimes and damages caused by these crimes, we will take legal action.”

The scam appears to be a more sophisticated version of those employed against promoters in Europe, who have been targeted by bogus emails purporting to come from leading booking agents.

 


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Hologram USA hits back amid fraud allegations

Hologram USA and its CEO Alki David have announced that they intend to “vigorously fight” allegations of fraud and registration violations made by the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC complaint alleges that Hologram USA presented “false and misleading” information to investors on its website, in relation to its “exclusive” rights to present holographic performances of artists including Tupac Shakur, Whitney Houston and Roy Orbison.

The complaint also claims the company misled investors regarding the existence of a Hologram USA theatre network, which was said to include the Landmark Theater in Indianapolis, the Civic Theater in New Orleans, the Saratoga Casino in New York and the Twin River Casino in Rhode Island.

Additionally, the SEC states that Hologram USA drew investors to its website through a TV commercial advertising the sale of unregistered stock.

“Through a nationwide television commercial and internet campaign that hyped Hologram’s purportedly imminent public offering, defendants knowingly or recklessly disseminated materially false and misleading statements to promote these unregistered offerings to prospective investors,” writes the SEC.

“I’m glad they sued and I’m going to countersue”

According to the SEC, David sold US$100,000 worth of unregistered shares between December 2017 and March 2018 ahead of an aborted initial public offering (IPO). The company had sought approval from the SEC to sell the stock but started soliciting buyers and selling unregistered securities to investors – “many of whom were not accredited” – before receiving the go ahead.

In March 2018, the SEC began enquiring about the unregistered offerings and Hologram USA started to refund investors. By April, all but $26,000 had been returned, according to the complaint.

“I’m glad they sued and I’m going to countersue,” says David in response to the complaint, which he terms as “bullshit”.

“I spent $80 million of my own money to build my company and take it public,” continues David. “I hired the best people and did everything by the book, working closely with NASDAQ. Twice, the SEC has targeted me and blocked my efforts to create hundreds of jobs as I advance the hologram industry. And now this. They’ve picked the wrong guy to fish for some settlement with. I’m not going to take it.”

 


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Ticketmaster launches SafeTix for digital tickets

Ticketing giant Ticketmaster has launched SafeTix, adding anti-counterfeiting features to digital tickets and providing event owners with more data about event attendees.

The SafeTix feature issues buyers with a unique, identifiable digital ticket. The tickets are tied to each fan’s mobile phone through an encrypted barcode that automatically refreshes, preventing the use of screenshots to duplicate tickets.

The tickets also include near-field communication (NFC) technology to allow attendees to enter venues with a “tap and go” experience.

Fans can sell or transfer tickets to a friend’s mobile number or email address. A new digital ticket is tied to the recipient’s account and phone each time a ticket is transferred or sold, making the journey of each issued ticket visible to organisers.

This visibility provides event organisers with more data on each individual fan attending their event, rather than just that of the original ticket purchaser. Organisers can communicate directly with attendees, providing fans with venue- or event-specific information and personalised food, drink and merchandise offerings.

“SafeTix will allow fans to arrive at a show or game with confidence that their tickets are always 100% authentic”

“Given that a new ticket is issued every time there is a transfer or sale, event owners have the ability to develop a unique relationship with each fan, leading to in-venue personalisation and future communication while increasing their known fanbase,” says Justin Burleigh, chief product officer of Ticketmaster, North America.

“SafeTix will allow fans to arrive at a show or game with confidence that their tickets are always 100% authentic and will dramatically reduce the amount of ticket fraud event owners are dealing with on event day.”

SafeTix will be used across NFL stadiums for the 2019 season and for a variety of touring artists. It will be available at additional participating venues in the future.

Later this year, fans will also be able to add contactless tickets to Apple Wallet, allowing them to enter venues easily and securely using their iPhone or Apple Watch. Tickets are automatically selected when a customer holds their iPhone near the ticket reader, using proximity-based technology.

Apple and Ticketmaster unveiled the integration this month during the opening keynote at Transact, the world’s premiere FinTech conference.

Ticketmaster acquired blockchain-ticketing service Upgraded in October 2018.

 


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Singapore police warn against online ticket scams

Upcoming concerts from popular K-pop boy bands WINNER and iKON have prompted police in Singapore to warn concertgoers about the risk of fake tickets associated with buying online.

Scams involving the sale of concert tickets remain prevalent in Singapore, with police reporting at least 120 incidents last year alone. Victims were either sent fake or invalid tickets or did not receive tickets at all, in all cases after payments had been made.

In a bid to encourage smarter and safer online shopping practises, Singapore police have provided prospective concertgoers with a set of three guidelines for buying tickets online. Singaporeans are advised not to be impulsive, not to be taken in by fake IDs or documents and not to give advance payments or deposits.

“Try to use shopping platforms that release your payment to the seller only upon receipt of the item”

Singapore police are putting particular emphasis on purchasing tickets from reputable and authorised sellers. “Try to use shopping platforms that release your payment to the seller only upon receipt of the item,” they warn.

“Alternatively, arrange to meet the seller and contact the authorised ticketing service provider (e.g. SISTIC, Sports Hub Tix etc.) to check the authenticity/validity of the tickets prior to making payment.”

Stories of concert hopefuls being scammed out of hundred of dollars have made headlines in Singapore in recent times. One unfortunate victim lost over S$400 to a scam, receiving just blank sheets of paper in the post instead of tickets for a JJ Lin concert. With category one tickets for the concert usually selling for close to $700, the woman, only identified by media as Ms Tan, thought she had found a good deal.

It is thought the same scammer has done the same to many others, using Facebook and elaborate stories to convince people into parting with their cash. Similar events have occurred in the UK, with ticket fraud up 38% in 2017 according to the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers.

 


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Agents warn of increase in email scams

The UK’s Entertainment Agents’ Association has issued a checklist for promoters following a sharp increase in the number of bogus emails purporting to come from leading booking agents.

Recent scams have seen fraudsters posing as the representatives of major artists, including Adele (Lucy Dickins at ITB), System of a Down, Justin Timberlake (John Giddings/Live Nation), Beyoncé, Mark Knopfler (WME’s Brent Smith and Andrew Zweck at Sensible Events) and Eminem, emailing concert promoters and asking for deposits in exchange for (often non-existent) live dates.

“We’re seeing a worrying increase in this style of email scam,” says Neil Tomlinson, who joined the association (formerly the Agents’ Association) as president last April. “Before agreeing any show and sending deposits, promoters must be 100% sure that they are dealing with the real booking agent for that artist.”

If unsure of an agent’s identity, the association is urging promoters to adopt the following steps:

1. Check the email address is correct – in particular the email domain – and if in any doubt call the agency to confirm it. Do not use the telephone number on the email
2. Check the artist’s website for any conflicting touring plans
3. Make sure you have full contact details of the agent with which you are working and speak to them on the phone at least once
4. Before sending a deposit, call the agency to confirm the booking and check their account details
5. Check with promoters in other markets to verify the artist is touring in that region at that time
6. If an offer is accepted and seems too good to be true, it probably is

“If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is”

“Please be very careful if you get mails that don’t quite look right,” says Emma Banks at CAA, who represents System of a Down.

“Follow the common-sense steps that the Agents’ Association have suggested and don’t send any money until you have double checked that the ‘agent’ is indeed who they say they are.”

She adds: “Please get on the phone to the agents you are doing business with – everything on email makes these scams so much easier for people to instigate.”

Members agencies of the Entertainment Agents’ Association include 13 Artists, Asgard, ATC Live, CAA, Coda, ITB, Primary Talent International, UTA, WME and X-ray Touring.

 


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European artists hit by ‘worst scam in 20 years’

More than 20 independent European musicians have each been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after being allegedly scammed by a phoney management company.

London-based Band Management Universal (BMU) – which reportedly charged up to £4,000 (€4,570) for packages supposed to include music production, marketing and touring services, as well as help to secure a recording contract – has shut its website and email accounts and cancelled its phones after failing to deliver the promised services, according to a BBC investigation.

A number of contractors are also believed to be owed money by the company, which was run by a man named ‘Matthias’.

An archived version of the BMU site from March 2016 shows the company’s address in Hatton Garden, London’s jewellery quarter.

“It’s a scam, definitely. There’s no doubt about it”

Among the artists who lost money are British singer Sarah Kaloczi (£2,000) and Dutch band Counting Wolves (£3,840). Jasper Roelofsen, singer in Counting Wolves, says ‘Matthias’ pressured him to pay, saying: “The quicker you get the money to me, the quicker we can get started”.

“We could have used that money to do something useful for our careers, but instead we burned it,” Roelofsen tells the BBC.

Horace Trubridge, head of the UK’s Musicians’ Union, says the alleged scam is the worst he’s seen in the past 20 years. “Oh, it is a scam, definitely,” he comments. “There’s no doubt about it.

“As soon as we hear that an artist has been asked to put their hand in their own pocket by a management company, big alarm bells start to ring.”

“We would caution artists not to pay through money on a wing and a prayer”

Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of the Music Managers Forum (MMF), adds: “Artists can check if managers are MMF members and are signed up to our professional code of practice. Needless to say, this guy [Matthias] isn’t.

“Artists should also ask around the industry for references before signing any contract, and should definitely take independent legal advice. Ensuring an artist has that independent legal advice also protects the manager.

“Some established artists do have managers on retainer rather than commission, and this can work well for the artist and the manager if structured right. But that set-up tends to be for very defined service delivery and we would caution artists not to pay through money on a wing and a prayer, as seems to have happened in this case according to the BBC’s report.”

Efforts by IQ to contact BMU were unsuccessful.

 


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Jason Nissen facing jail time after guilty plea

Jason Nissen, the New York-based former ticket reseller accused of operating a a multimillion-dollar ponzi scheme, has pledged to repay his victims after pleading guilty to wire fraud.

Nissen and eight of his companies are accused of funnelling more than US$120m through a fraudulent scheme in which investors were promised “impossibly high returns” on resold tickets for events including Broadway musical Hamilton, Adele’s Adele Live 2016/2017 world tour, the Super Bowl and several other sporting events.

In reality, alleged prosecuting lawyers Morrison Cohen, “the ‘returns’ on the ticket sales were illusory, financed by cash infusions from new investors who were told their money would be used to purchase tickets for resale”.

Last June, a New York court ordered the seizure of cash, property, shares and other assets from Nissen, who allegedly conned investors out of $32m to prop up what the prosecution described as a “basic yet audacious” ticket-selling scam. One of his companies, National Event Company (Neco), was later given the go-ahead to sell its remaining inventory of approximately 11,000 tickets, after successfully arguing the tickets would otherwise become worthless.

“I wish to apologise to those who trusted me with their investments and loans”

Nissen yesterday pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud – fraud committed using electronic communications – before district judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan, reports Bloomberg Markets.

Nissen told Engelmayer he borrowed money from investors to buy large quantities of tickets, often at high interest rates, but was forced to seek more funding due to poor sales and “other business problems”.

“I know that my conduct was wrong and I wish to apologise to those who trusted me with their investments and loans and for any harm I have caused,” he said, adding he would work to repay investors.

The maximum sentence for wire fraud, if convicted at trial, is 20 years in prison, although Nissen’s plea agreement reportedly calls for him to serve between five and just over ten years when he is sentenced on 21 August. He also faces a fine of as much as $250,000 – or twice the gain to him or the loss to others – and will be ordered to pay investors $65–72m in restitution.

 


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