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If you've tried to buy a ticket to a big concert or a game, then you know this - you have to be quick. They can sell out almost as soon as they go on sale. Well, in a new report, the New York State Attorney General's Office says unlicensed vendors are illegally grabbing big blocks of tickets. To do it, they use something called a bot - a software program that buys lots of tickets faster than you could do it at home. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Deborah Chrisanti (ph) was determined to see a Paul McCartney concert, so she went online as soon as tickets went on sale. She quickly discovered that the concert was sold out. So she went on the online ticket bazaar StubHub, and there she found plenty of tickets available at much higher prices.
DEBORAH CHRISANTI: The amount of money I spent on the highest level seats, I could've got VIP passes backstage.
ZARROLI: New York officials say they get plenty of complaints from people like Chrisanti. And today, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman produced a report on ticket prices. Schneiderman says a huge industry of unlicensed vendors has learned to rig the system by buying up tickets in bulk.
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: Some use rooms full of employees logging on to multiple computers using multiple credit cards to buy up tickets. But the more sophisticated ones are now using illegal software known as ticket bots.
ZARROLI: These bots can bypass security systems that ticket sellers use - those little boxes that ask you to retype wavy letters or numbers. And when a concert venue limits the number of tickets you can buy, bots can get around that as well. As a result, Schneiderman says they can buy up tickets before most fans even know they're on sale.
SCHNEIDERMAN: It took a single bot just one minute to buy more than 1,000 tickets to a U2 concert last summer at Madison Square Garden. And there's just no way ordinary fans can compete with that.
ZARROLI: Vendors can even acquire and sell tickets to free events like the pope's appearance in Central Park last September. The result is that you can buy tickets to just about any event online, but you end up paying a hefty price for them.
SCHNEIDERMAN: We documented that a bot once purchased a ticket to a One Direction show for $101 and resold it at 70 times the price.
ZARROLI: This business is enormously lucrative. One unlicensed vendor sold $31 million worth of tickets on StubHub alone in 2013, netting a profit of $16 million. Bots are illegal in New York State, and officials want ticket platforms to force vendors to comply with the law. They also want them to take other steps like showing the face value of tickets being sold so customers get a better sense of how much they're being taken for. For its part, StubHub issued a statement today saying it's committed to partnering with the industry to end unfair and deceptive practices. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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