Why You Shouldn’t Share Photos of Event Tickets, Gift Vouchers or Store Cards Online

January 27th, 2017 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here. John R

When it comes to big ticket events, be it a grand final or the ‘last ever’ AC/DC concert, there’s always a strong possibility that something will come up and you will be unable to attend despite having tickets. Or if you’ve been given a gift card that you won’t use, you may consider selling it to someone else to be able to spend the money on something you do want.

Whatever the reason, it’s common practice today for people to sell unwanted items online, but with online fraud reaching record highs, there’s a number of reasons why you shouldn’t put photos of your tickets, vouchers or store cards online.

By practicing the following safe strategies you can make sure that you protect your online identity and keep your personal details secure when selling items online.

The credit card analogy

Would you post your credit card details online? What about other personal details like your Medicare number? The security code to your garage or even the answer to your ‘secret question’?

It might seem a silly hypothesis, but good natured people have been tricked or coerced into providing personal details online since the internet began. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last.

A good question to ask yourself before posting personal details online is, “What’s the worst that can happen?”. In the case of event tickets or gift cards, fraud, loss of money and (if it’s an event) inability to attend are all potential consequences that can arise from posting pictures of the item online.

Some facts about ticket theft

In England alone, according to the London police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, around £5.2 million was lost to ticket fraud in 2015, up from £3.35 million in 2014.  However, The Guardian estimates this figure to be significantly higher, as it only takes into account reported theft.

Not just the ticket holders at risk

Ticket scammers don’t just take advantage of the ticket holders when they engage in fraudulent behaviour. Barcodes and other details posted online can be recreated and on sold through marketplace sites like eBay and Gumtree, leaving many people out of pocket when they pay for the same fraudulent tickets.

Similarly, other sensitive information, like TAB winnings, can also be pilfered from online images. A recent example occurred in the wake of 2015’s Melbourne Cup race.

A Perth woman nabbed $825 in winnings after backing 100-to-1 shot Prince of Penzance, only to have her winnings stolen after the barcode from the image was used to withdraw prize money from an automated machine. The ease through which this was accomplished – within 15 minutes no less, and by someone she quite possibly knew – should serve as a warning to everyone about the potential threats to our privacy that simple social media posting can bring.

What can happen with gift cards?

It’s been known for fraudsters to also search through images posted online of gift cards for sale to find the barcode number on the card. Once they have this, they are able to go online and purchase an item using the barcode. After all, very few gift cards are attributed to a specific name that must match any login details.

How can you protect yourself?

The best practice is to simply not post your ticket or gift card information online in the first place. Social media sites might recommend increased control of your privacy settings to discourage strangers from viewing your pictures and profile, but in truth this isn’t as secure as simply not posting. Even if your privacy settings are maxed out, it’s still possible that a friend or associate’s account has been hacked or you’ve accidentally befriended a fake account. Overall, it’s better to keep this information away from the net.

Similarly, ensuring your email is secure will prevent compromises to e-ticket sales. Try regularly changing the password to protect auto logins. Many of the bigger email hosts, like Gmail, can also provide you with warnings when someone logs into your account from a new device.

Cover the code

If you absolutely have to, and we mean really have to, show off a picture of your tickets to your friends and followers online, then make sure you cover the code.

The best method is to cover it when you take the picture. Use your fingers to mask the barcode or just keep that section out of shot.

While it is possible to blank out barcodes in post production, be wary of the format you’re sending in, as it might be possible for the edit to be reversed. Similarly, avoid sharing screenshots of personal information such as ticket numbers, credit card numbers and account names from email or websites.

When am I in the clear?

Once you’re at the concert, inside the gates, or you’ve used the voucher, then sharing an image of the code is fine. Each have unique barcodes, so once your ticket has been scanned by the security guards or your gift card has been maxed out, it is no longer at risk of being stolen. Beyond the barcode, your ticket or gift card shouldn’t have any sensitive information about you personally on it, so there’s no risk in sharing it.

When all’s said and done, although the internet lets us share our lives with those closest to us, there are some things worth keeping to ourselves. Always try to keep your personal information secure, no matter the context. Make sure to buy from reputable outlets and you’ll be able to enjoy your online life without risk of fraud or theft.

About the author

John Reisinger

John Reisinger is known as one of the fastest coders in the business. He’s the one at Aussie Broadband dreaming up and developing new products for our customers. Sometimes, you can find him performing with his theatre group at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.