Ticket fraudster scams over eighty Six Nations fans
More than 80 victims have allegedly been defrauded out of thousands of pounds each after buying hospitality tickets for the Ireland’s Six Nations clash against Ireland in Twickenham later this month, according to Bedfordshire Police.
The scam was first uncovered by the Consumers’ Association’s Which? The registered charity and consumers’ rights watchdog said it had been contacted by four people defrauded by a company called Elite Sports Hospitality charging more than £10,000 for corporate boxes at Twickenham.
The company, which sought payment by unprotected bank transfers rather than credit cards, cancelled the tickets and disappeared with the money.
Which? said it was contacted by four people who paid Elite Sports Hospitality from £7,500 to £10,200 plus VAT, believing they were buying a glass-fronted private box with a Champagne reception and four-course lunch for 20 people at the Six Nations Rugby tournament.
The organisation passed on the information to Action Fraud, who passed on the case to Bedfordshire police who, in turn, confirmed they had received reports from more than 80 people who claim to have been defrauded out of several hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The disappeared firm disabled all of its phone lines and has ignored customer emails from its customers, most of whom were originally contacted via their work email addresses.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) confirmed that Elite Sports Hospitality (Elite Direct Marketing and Advertising Ltd) has no known legitimate third-party arrangement to offer executive boxes at Twickenham.
It said: “We have been made aware of this operator and have brought them to the attention of the police. Our message to fans is clear – if you buy from an unofficial source, there is a very good chance you won’t get in, so don’t risk it.”
Which? said it also spoke to the Oxford business park registered as the most recent business address for Elite Sports Hospitality, and was told it had previously paid for a ‘virtual office’ (essentially a mail-handling service) but the contract was terminated last year after it failed to pay its bill for three months in a row. It said a company known as Elite Hospitality, registered as Elite Sports Hospitality Limited, has been dissolved since October last year.
The website for Elite Sports Hospitality lists its parent company as Elite Direct Advertising and Marketing Ltd. Documents at Companies House lists that company’s sole director and shareholder as Dunstable-based businessman Jermaine Daley.
Mr Daley told the London Evening Standard he sold the company to a Mr Delroy Forgah for £1 in December last year and knew nothing about the scam. Delroy Forgah was the name on an email sent to customers at the start of February asking them to transfer money to the company’s HSBC account only to be later told that their “booking will no longer be going ahead” after a “mix-up”.
They were asked for their bank details as “a full refund will be offered on the package purchased”.
But when victims tried to contact Elite Sports Hospitality, emails bounced back and phone lines were dead.
A spokeswoman for Bedfordshire Police said: “We have received reports that more than 80 victims have been defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in total after hospitality packages were offered to businesses for various high profile rugby events. Payment was requested by bank transfer, but the victims never received the tickets.
“We are investigating the web company which offered the packages. Our advice to stay safe online is always be suspicious if a website asks you to make a bank transfer instead of paying by card.”
The victims are highly unlikely to get their money back because they all made bank transfers to Elite Sports Hospitality.
Transferring money into another bank account isn’t protected in the same way as direct debits or card payments. If a bank customer realises they’ve been scammed, their bank must try to recover the funds once they’ve been officially notified, but the banks aren’t legally obliged to refund losses.
The RFU says hospitality for NatWest Six Nations fixtures such as the St Patrick’s Day Ireland vs England game can only be bought via official licensed operators such as Mike Burton Corporate Hospitality Ltd, Smart Experiences Hospitality Finder, Engage Hospitality, Eventmasters and Events International.
From this Autumn all official match-day hospitality delivered within Twickenham Stadium will be by England Rugby Hospitality as the exclusive provider.
Bedfordshire police said customers should always be suspicious if a website asks customers to make a bank transfer instead of paying by card. Paying by credit cards, especially for larger purchases, provides protection if things go wrong with a purchase.