Olympics-Vancouver organisers sorting out credit card scam

Wed, 19 May 23:02:00 2010

* Fraudsters cashed in on Olympic ticket resales

Organizers of the Vancouver Olympics are sorting out who will pick up the tab for an estimated C$2 million ($1.9 million) credit card scam involving ticket resales for February's Winter Games.

A group of Latvian criminals used the Games' official resale website to buy tickets using stolen credit card numbers, organizers said on Wednesday. They then resold the tickets to spectators trying to get into popular events.

The Vancouver Olympics was the first Winter Games to have its own official ticket resale website. Organizers touted the site as a safe way for people to resell tickets that might not otherwise be used.

"The site itself was secure, it was was the credit cards that were compromised," said John McLaughlin, the Vancouver Organizing Committee's (VANOC) chief financial officer.

VANOC alerted police after noticing unusual activity on the site during the Games, and at least two people, both Latvian nationals, were arrested in Vancouver for involvement in the scheme, according to officials.

The committee refunded money to about 200 people who unwittingly sold their tickets to the fraud ring, and is now negotiating with various banks and its insurance companies over who is financially liable.

Olympic sponsor Visa Inc had exclusive rights to all credit card transactions during the Games, and only tickets bought with credit cards could be resold over the website, which handled ticket sales for some 13,000 people.

VANOC officials do not expect costs associated with the the scam to dash their hopes of reporting a balanced C$1.7 billion operating budget. The final financial report is not expected until later in the year.

The committee also found itself in the news when a group claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a firebomb attack on a Royal Bank of Canada branch in Ottawa. The attack was said linked to Royal's sponsorship of the 2010 Games.

"The Games in Vancouver are over, but resistance continues," said the group, calling itself FFFC-Ottawa in a video of the attack on Tuesday that was posted on the Internet.

The group threatened more action during G8 and G20 summits that will be held in Canada in June.

"I hope it is isolated and we won't see it again," said VANOC Chief Executive John Furlong, who said he was unaware of the attack until informed by reporters on Wednesday.

A small group of anarchists broke store windows in Vancouver in violent demonstration during the Olympics, but failed in their earlier threats to disrupt the Games, which had a C$900 million government-funded security operation.

($1=$1.04 Canadian) (Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson)


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