Never post barcode photos of tickets online

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Experts working in the security industry and in the media warn against publishing photos of their tickets on the Web. Many people take this advice seriously, but not all. In social media every now and then someone publishes  photos of tickets,  especially on Instagram – all marked hasztagiem #tickets.

Why is this a bad idea?

The problem is that people who post photos of tickets for future events forget to cover the barcode and the numbers beneath it. Such information can be copied and used to make copies of the tickets – then resell them or visit the event at the victim’s expense.

The same principle applies to airline tickets: while no one will sit on the plane for you, it can literally waste your trip  – book the worst seats or even cancel your return ticket. All the information required for this is on the plane tickets, so you’d better not put it online.

Could this really happen?

An Australian woman named Chantelle won $ 825 in a Melbourne Cup horse race. After she posted her picture on the internet with a lucky ticket , she lost all her money.

Every big event attracts the attention of cybercriminals. Last year, a UK resident lost £ 5.5 million after falling victim to a ticket fraud.  Major sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup and Euro 2016 top the list of scams, followed by concerts and festivals.

Ticket sales services usually have a rule whereby customers cannot pass the data on the ticket to third parties, so posting a photo of your ticket is tantamount to sharing your details with anyone who sees it. If a person disregards their rules, the blame for the unpleasantness can only be caused by himself.
Posting tickets online is also a great way to let burglars  know when you are not home.

What is the purpose of selling personal tickets if they can be forged?

When a person posts a picture of their ticket online, they can thus trigger a chain of events for the fraudster to forge the ticket and sell it to others. If the new buyer arrives first and uses the counterfeit ticket, everyone else – including the original buyer – will not be able to attend the event. Is there any way to solve this problem? In theory, event makers can check ID cards on entry – something like two – step verification , but in real life this approach is difficult to apply.

On the other hand, the control of checking tickets together with the buyer’s name can cause irritation. Moreover, it is not practical: if hundreds of people are expected to attend an event, their evidence can be checked fairly efficiently, but if the event attracts 30,000 people it is almost impossible. Imagine a concert that doesn’t start because visitors are queuing for hours for inspection. Nobody wants him to miss the start of the show due to tighter controls.

What’s more, it is not worth taking ID cards, driving licenses, passports or other documents confirming our identity at mass events – they can easily be stolen from us in the crowd. On the other hand, concert managers can make a nod to the victims and offer them seats – even if they are not as good as the ones they bought earlier. However, there are also downsides to this: some people abuse it by giving tickets to friends so they can enter for free, and then go to the concert managers to fix the „problem”. Therefore, many people checking tickets do not believe people whose tickets have already been used.

Unfortunately, there is no universal solution for this – a new ticket identification system must be invented. Until then, we all need to be careful and never post tickets or documents on the Web.

Is there a way to show off my ticket safely?

Yes, there is this way, although it is only half safe. If you want to post a photo of your ticket online, you need to know what to cover. Find out what barcodes are and what they are all about.

1D barcodes are used to encode small pieces of information, while 2D barcodes contain more data.

1D barcode is based on a binary code. Each binary digit corresponds to 7 lines, which can be white or black. Sometimes the black stripes are not separated by the white ones, making them thicker. The last bars of the code are usually check digits that are used to confirm the accuracy of the reading. Cinema, concert and airline tickets often contain several check digits that are confirmed by the data contained in the barcode.

One of the most common 2D codes is the QR code. Mostly it is used to open websites quickly on mobile devices, but not always: you can find them on Indian IRCTC train tickets, for example. Many flight boarding passes also contain a 2D code (not exactly QR, but PDF417).

2D codes consist of black and white squares which also stand for 1 and 0. However, 2D codes are much more complicated than those in the 1D release as they usually have not only a few check digits but also special areas used for 2D code recognition by cameras . For example, QR codes have three characteristic squares placed at the corners.

If you want to post a photo of your ticket, you’ll need to completely cover the barcode along with the numbers below it. Ticket checkers only use scanners to read the code, and criminals can recreate it with only numbers.

In general, we do not recommend posting photos of tickets online before the event, even if the code is disguised – criminals with relevant experience in social engineering can obtain the missing data from both you and those around you. If you want to show off to other people, just write a short note about it.