NS group ticket scam
Jana Luknárová, a student of medicine at the RUG and one of the administrators of the Facebook group NS Group-tickets Groningen, checks every single user profile before accepting people. There have been several cases of users being ripped off in the group, which has around 8,330 members. The group is predominantly used by international students.
The strategies of the scammers are always the same: they either steal an activation code from someone and intercept the ticket or send an invalid code to someone after he or she has already paid for it.
Silvana Della Penna, a former PhD candidate in pathology at the RUG, had an activation code stolen from her. But NS customer service told her she couldn’t do anything about it. ‘It is amazing that students abuse each other in this way’, she says.
Other users say that when they realized they had been given an invalid code, they tried to bring it up in the group. But the scammer and several other members – who turned out to be friends – suggested that they had been cheated and would just have to live with it.
The conversation was eventually deleted, but there were screen shots to prove the scam had occurred. ‘In this case, it was very obvious and the scammer and his friends were all banned and kicked out of the group’, Jana says.
Even though Jana tries to keep the scammers out, she thinks it’s unlikely that any further action would be taken against them. ‘The quantity is just 7 euros, so I think the police cannot do much’, she says. According to the group description, prices range from 7 euros to 13.75 euros, depending on how many people participate in the group ticket deal.
Edwin Valkema, a student agent with the Groningen police, confirms that there isn’t much the authorities can do. The fact that it happens online also makes prosecution difficult. ‘When we want to track IP numbers from a computer, we have to ask the Office of Justice and they only allow us to do that with serious cases.’
When trying to identify potential scams, Jana says that she looks into where the user lives, how many friends he or she has and other user activity. ‘Scammers seem like ordinary people and you don’t know until it happens to you, since they don’t talk too much in the group. They prefer to steal quietly,’ says Jana.
Jana encourages users to report suspected scams to her with proof so she can ban those involved. She is also hoping to create an app to make purchasing tickets easier and safer.
Valkema says that Facebook users should still exercise caution. ‘People in NS group take their own risk trusting in unknown people, and I don’t see any possibility to pursue a case of fraud.’