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Beijing Olympic Ticket-scam victims could lose air fares

ASSOCIATED costs such as cancelled air fares and accommodation will not be refundable to victims of the Beijing Olympics ticketing scam through their credit-card providers because the purchases cannot be classified as disputed transactions, Visa Australia has warned.
Instead, it may be up to the discretion of hotels and airlines to decide whether to waive terms and conditions for those who unknowingly bought fake tickets to Olympic events. And while travel insurance policies typically cover cancelled travel plans due to illness, victims of fraud may not find themselves so lucky.
The chief executive of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Mike Hatton, said a consumer's chance of recouping all their associated costs with the ticketing scam other than the cost of the fake ticket would depend on the airline ticket's terms and conditions, and an individual hotel's cancellation policy.
Yesterday, another site identified by the Herald offering fake tickets to Olympic events - theonlineticketexchange.com - was closed down. The site is one of a number of linked online ticketing merchants linked to a ticket tout in Britain, Terance Shepherd, now believed to have fled to Barbados.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has declined to comment on investigations into the worldwide fraud, other than to confirm the authority is working on the case with the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network.
Mr Shepherd is thought to have made millions out of the alleged scam with victims as far afield as New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States. In NSW and Victoria, at least $200,000 worth of fake tickets have been identified so far.
Neither Visa Australia nor any Australian credit card providers - namely banks - will be exposed financially by the scam, however, because it is the merchant's bank (referred to as the acquiring financial institution) which must ultimately pay up for the dishonoured purchases, refunding the banks which in turn pass the refund on to the credit card holder.
The Herald understands that no Australian bank has acted as an acquiring financial institution to any of Mr Shepherd's myriad operations, which are based in Britain but apparently registered in the United States.
The Herald has, however, seen copies of two emails sent to Mr Shepherd in 2006 by the Cologne institution Pago eTransaction Services GmbH, which is part of Deutsche Bank.

The first email demands an explanation over excessive chargebacks the bank was shouldering from Mr Shepherd's online site Theonlineticketshop in 2006. The second email, dated July 26, 2006, informs him that his website has been identified as an illegal operation and financial services were being withdrawn immediately.
"The website 'theonlineticketshop' was identified for unauthorised sale of tickets which has been confirmed through a test transaction.
"On the basis of these facts, as the acquirer, we are being urgently requested by the credit card organisations [for both Visa and MasterCard] to stop processing immediately," the email said. It was signed by Pago's risk manager, Daniela Christoffel.
Theonlineticketshop was placed into liquidation three months later, but was subsequently bought by another company that was linked to Mr Shepherd, Xclusiveticket.com.
In March 2003, Mr Shepherd, who also uses the spellings Terrence and Terence, was banned in Britain from being a director of a company for 3½ years.
But he continued to control his Sports Mondial operations, which were subject to Supreme Court action in Australia in 2003 over the illegal procurement of tickets for a National Rugby League grand final. Last November he was banned from being a director for a further six years.

Source:The Sudney Morning Herald


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