Barb’s story: Scammed on Paul McCartney tickets

You’re dying to go to Paul McCartney’s concert in Toronto on Aug. 8 and 9, but the seats you want are sold out. So you try the resale market for tickets.

You find an ad on Craigslist for four tickets at $150 each. That’s a great price, you think. The seller is a flight attendant for British Air, who had a last-minute schedule change and can’t get to the concert after all.

You check her out and decide to go ahead. But the tickets never arrive in Canada, even though you’re given a tracking number with the British Royal Mail.

Barb’s story, which you can read below, shows how easy it is to get swindled by a stranger with a good story. In future, Barb says, she’ll heed the Craigslist warnings to deal only with sellers she can talk to on the phone and meet in person.

Carol also told me about her elderly dad, who took his new iPhone on an overseas trip. He needed help with his reception problems, but didn’t realize the device’s roaming feature had been turned on. Of course, he faced a big bill later, which I was able to get reduced.

Travelling with smart phones can be expensive, as Carol’s story shows. I’d welcome advice from readers on how to cut costs, such as unlocking the phone and buying a SIM card in the country you’re visiting.

I covered this topic a few years ago, but I’m wondering if things have changed.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

18 thoughts on “Barb’s story: Scammed on Paul McCartney tickets”

  1. Hi Ellen, I searched for tickets for either of the Toronto shows through from the day they became available until last weekend, but was unable to find four tickets.

    I really didn’t want to go through an after market reseller. I have a strong dislike for scalpers.

    In desperation, I went to Craigslist and Kijiji to expand the search. I responded to a couple of listings but stumbled across a listing that seemed to good to be true, four tickets front row centre for $150 apiece. That should have been my first warning.

    I responded to the listing and a couple of others. After several days I heard back from “Lisa Donovan” that the tickets were still available and yes they were $150 each with the assurance they were genuine.

    I replied to the listing asking for a number where I could reach “her”.

    She replied she was a flight attendant and could not attend the show because of schedule changes, so she needed to sell the tickets that were a gift from her employer to her and three coworkers.

    She was currently in an airport about to leave for an overseas flight, but offered an alternative for shipping the tickets to me overnight.

    She suggested the Royal Mail service where both parties would be protected from any misdealings. She also provided the link so I could take a look at it.

    It seemed to be legitimate so I took the leap of faith.
    I agreed to purchase the tickets and “she” would pay the shipping through Royal Mail. About 20 minutes later I received confirmation from Royal Mail that the four tickets had been shipped to my address.

    I needed to send the money via Western Union to the Royal Mail agent “Rina Gosser” in Leeds UK. The sender was Lisa Donovan at 95 Dundas Street, Sunderland SR6 0AK, U.K.

    I wired the money as required and waited until the next day but the tickets never arrived. I sent an inquiry to the Royal Mail using my tracking number US655938738GB as a reference, but never received a reply.

    My son did a google search using the same wording for the Craigslist advertisement that I responded to. Sure enough, several ads popped up, but the seller was Lisa with a different surname.

    What a huge disappointment for me, my 14 year old daughter and our two friends.

    Coincidentally, the day before I met a woman who was raising funds to work in an African village. I donated $10. In retrospect, I would much rather have given her the $640. At least it was going to a good cause!

    I hope you share this with other readers so they won’t fall into the same trap I did.

    I have had no response to any emails to either Lisa Donovan or the Royal Mail service. I really don’t think I have any other recourse at this point, unfortunately.

    Please heed the warnings posted on Craigslist and always deal with the seller initially over the phone and finally in person. I hope this information is useful.

  2. My father is 84 years old and only recently (in March) got an iPhone through Virgin Mobile. His monthly bills averaged around $50.

    On May 6th, he travelled to Paris on his way to Lebanon and Jordan to visit his sister, who has been diagnosed with cancer.

    Upon arrival in Paris, he noticed his phone had no service. He waited patiently, thinking the service would kick in but never did.

    On May 10th, he went into an Apple store in Paris to ask why his phone was not working. A salesperson took his phone and played around (my dad did not see what he did, nor was he told what was done to the phone).

    He gave the phone back to my dad and said “You have service now and will have it in Lebanon and Jordan.”

    After that day, my father did not use the phone at all, except for playing a game on one of the apps.

    He did not make any calls and only received two calls from Fido. My sister was with him and answered the calls and quickly hung up.

    On May 14th, he travelled to Lebanon. He noticed that he had no service on his phone, so he just left it alone and did not bother to try to use it. The same thing happened when he went to Jordan.

    Since there were no Apple stores in either country, he simply gave up.

    Upon his return to Toronto on May 29th, he noticed he still had no service.

    The next day, he went to the Virgin Mobile store in Markville Mall and they called the office.

    He found out that his service had been cut off. Virgin suspected delinquent behaviour when they noticed his bill was up to $2,183.89.

    The manager in Markville told my father he figured out what had happened in Paris. The Apple store clerk turned on the DATA ROAMING. This is what caused the bill charges to go up to the incredible amount.

    I have tried to talk to Virgin on three occasions. The billing department refused to talk to me yesterday and simply told the customer service rep to tell me that the case is closed, all charges remain.

    Ellen, the amount of money my father is expected to pay is extremely high. I believe that Virgin and/or Apple should have some compassion, since my father was at the mercy of a man that Apple entrusted to serve their customers.

    FYI, my father has all his bills arranged to be paid under pre-authorization with Visa. Visa will not do anything to stop the payment and is holding him responsible.

    I pray that there is some way you can help my father.


    Hello Ellen, I just wanted to thank you for your help.
    my father finally got the credit.

    Without your intervention, Virgin would have never spoken with us (sad)!

  3. I became a Virgin Mobile customer recently because I was a Richard Branson fan and was fed up with the terrible service and excessive charges from Bell, whom I used to have cellphone service with.

    lt has proven to be a mistake, as Virgin has turned out to be the same as the other cellphone providers.

    I have a plan with 350 local anytime shared minutes (my wife and I both share the plan) and an add-on of unlimited North American long distance minutes. That is what my agreement states: UNLIMITED NORTH AMERICAN LONG DISTANCE MINUTES.

    It turns out that Virgin differentiates between long distance minutes and long distance charges, so I was recently charged an additional $60 for exceeding my 350 local shared minutes because some of my long distance calls were unusually long.

    According to Virgin, while long distance charges were not applied, the extra minutes were applied to the 350 local minutes and therefore caused me to exceed the limit.

    This was never explained to me by the Virgin representative and was never obvious from carefully reading of their agreement.

    Even after a long discussion with several people at Virgin, I am still at a loss to understand how local minutes can be impacted by long distance minutes.

    It would have made a little more sense if the agreement had read UNLIMITED NORTH AMERICAN LONG DISTANCE CHARGES instead of MINUTES…..still unacceptable, nonetheless.

    The last virgin representative I spoke with was quick to inform me that all the other companies do the same thing. He did, however, agree to credit me with the extra $60 charge, which was very sporting of him and much appreciated.

    I can’t wait for my 2 year contract to end so I can switch to a more honest and straightforward company, but I have no idea where I’ll find that.

  4. I switched from Bell Mobility to Virgin Mobile to escape Bell’s rapacious fees and policies and terrible customer service. I left a $340 credit on my account Bell would neither credit nor refund. There didn’t seem to be any reason to withhold it, it was just company policy!

    Virgin was fantastic for the first couple of years, then Bell Mobility bought it out. Guess what? I’m back to the same old Bell Mobility crap! The upside is I’m not on a contract with Virgin. I own my cellphone. The downside is it’s apparently locked to Virgin’s network. It’s too new to throw away, but when I get tired of it or it starts to malfunction I’ll be looking for a new cellphone company. Hopefully by that time competition will have broken out in the cellphone business.

  5. I purchase many things through ebay and such. The one thing they warn of is the person asking you to use Western Union. The point is, anyone can go in and pick up this money apparently. I pay with PayPal, had 2 issues in the last yr, resolved and got my money back because things were never sent.

  6. Although both my husband and I have our own cellphones, we leave them at home when we travel outside the country, and use a spare, unlocked phone with a sim card that was purchased online from a company in California. We actually have two cards — one for Europe, and the other one for the US. We are able to re-charge the cards via the internet. There is no data plan, but all we require is basic communication service. (We rely on internet cafes or hotel wi-fi for web surfing and email).

    It gives us peace of mind to know that our family and friends have the number and would be able to contact us in case of an emergency, as well as immense satisfaction in managing to escape the grasp of our hungry domestic mobile service provider, if only for a short while.

  7. When purchasing from an unknown seller, use PayPal
    It protects both the purchaser and the seller

    If the seller does not want to use PayPal look elsewhere

  8. British postal codes are similar to Canadian ones and Craigslist very prominently warns against using Western Union! Right in the listings!

  9. I too fell for the Lisa Donovan scam for McCartney tickets. I became suspicious and contacted Western Union. Luckily for me the receiver of the money transfer had not yet picked up the money and I was able to cancel the transaction. After speaking with the fraud department at Western Union, they refunded all my money, including the $33 service fee. Very kind!

    Does anyone know why “Royal Mail” would want a .jpg copy of the Western Union receipt. (They would not accept a .doc file.) I am worried that this entire scam exists in order to infect my computer.

  10. I looked at the 419eater site and read down the postings to the one with the headers. I looked up all the IP addresses; the top 2 were spoofs of the IANA IP numbers, one was from a site in the American west that a lot of spam comes from. When dealing with people by email, it can be helpful if you check the header information. IP number locations can tell you a lot.

  11. While I have not personally used it, I have heard good things about for ticket resale – they supposedly guarantee both ends of the transaction.

    I own a popular smartphone. In the US, I turn data roaming off and hold my nose and pay the very high voice roaming charges. In Europe, I have an unlocked basic Nokia phone that I use with a Virgin UK pay-as-you SIM I got a few years ago.

    I wish the telcos would “get with the program” and provide reasonably priced data roaming.

    It’s ironic that the data functions of the phone are often most useful when you are traveling out of the country, yet you can’t afford to use them!

  12. About avoiding bill shock for data roaming.

    Blackberry devices have had a feature to prevent this for a long, long time. This is how to activate it, but the exact steps might vary a little bit, depending on which BlackBerry device someone is using.

    If someone has trouble configuring this, they should contact their cellphone carrier
    (or techie neighbour) and have them help out.

    On older Blackberrys, go to Options then Mobile Network and change Data Services to say Off When Roaming.

    On newer Blackberrys, go to Options, then Mobile Network, and change While Roaming to say either Off or Prompt. Off means it will never use roaming data and Prompt means the device will not use roaming data unless the user gives it permission when roaming starts.

    That’s all. Your wallet and investment portfolio are now safe.

    Thank you so much, Ellen, for the great work you do.

  13. THANK YOU for posting! Saw tickets online from…who would you guess… Lisa Donovan – First Flight Attendant from British Airways….so happy i googled that and found this, assured me that this was a scam and I am very sorry for those who did get scammed by “her” =(

  14. @ MO. (#7)

    MO, your system seems simple, cheap and effective. Could you please share more details? Could you please share the name of the website where you buy your cards?


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