Online broker selling tickets for Matilda, but show doesn't exist

Before you go online to buy tickets to a play or concert, double check the name of the website. It could be a deceptive ticket broker site that charges highly inflated prices for seats that may not exist. And if you plan on grabbing tickets before Matilda's final curtain, call at The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, don't make Elizabeth Poiana's mistake.

Poiana purchased three Matilda tickets online and thought they were the real thing until she tried to use them. An online ticket broker bought tickets from the 5th Avenue Theatre and then altered them and jacked up the price.

"When we went up we were not able to get in. I went up, very upset to the ticket person thinking it's their fault," said Poiana.

When Elizabeth used her smartphone to order online she didn't realize she was not on the official 5th Avenue Theatre website. There are several 3rd party online ticket sights that are very deceptive. These brokers paying big bucks to be the first result you get when you do a Google search for a live performance. It can be a pay, a concert, a sports event.

In this case the broker charged Elizabeth $115 apiece for three tickets valued at $25. The broker purchased the tickets from the 5th Avenue Theatre box office, then with photoshop or similar software, removed the price, fees, and total amount. They also removed the name of the purchaser at the bottom of the ticket. Both are red flags that you've been duped.

Poiana and her friends were able to use the tickets and see Matilda, but the ticketed seats turned out to be in the very last row at the top of the balcony- a long way from the orchestra seats she was told she would get. For the amount she paid, she actually could have gotten orchestra seats, which were still available through the box office.

5th Avenue Theatre Artistic Director David Armstrong says it's a huge problem that leaves legitimate, non-profit organizations holding the bag. The 5th Avenue works with consumers to accommodate them with discounted seats. Armstrong says with some 3rd party brokers the tickets are real, just altered.

And it's not just happening at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Brazen brokers pull the same trick with performances at Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Paramount and virtually every other popular live performance venue across the country. Even worse than over charging- some sites sell tickets for non-existent events.

"We have the final performance for Matilda on Sunday afternoon this week," said Armstrong. "But there's a broker out there that has a website selling tickets for Sunday evening that will not happen and doesn't exist."

Armstrong said people who show up Sunday night expecting to see Matilda will find posted alerts advising them of the fraud. If it happens to you, get the name of the actual website you used to buy the tickets - and file a complaint with the state Attorney General.

And before you buy any tickets online, make sure it's the official website of the theatre or performance hall. Even better, deal directly with the box office.