SYDNEY, August 4 – Scores of Australians have been caught in an alleged global scam believed to have conned people worldwide into buying non-existent tickets to the Beijing Olympics, reports said Monday.
The Sydney Morning Herald said one Brisbane man had spent 46,000 dollars (42,876 US) for tickets which never arrived while a Sydney man had lost 10,000 dollars the same way.
Just days ahead of the opening ceremony for the Beijing Games, officials conceded that it appeared many Australians were victims of an elaborate global swindle.
"This appears to be a worldwide scam," Consumer Affairs Minister for the southern state of Victoria, Tony Robinson, said.
"We’re very concerned that a lot of people, it would appear, have been taken in by a very professional scam and there’s a lot of money that appears to have gone under."
A hotline was established by the New South Wales government Monday to deal with complaints about tickets purchased via websites including the US-based beijingticketing.com, which was still operating Monday.
Within hours of opening, the hotline had received 22 complaints from people who had spent a combined 60,000 dollars (55,927 US) buying tickets which had not been delivered, a state government spokeswoman told AFP.
New South Wales Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney said information taken from the hotline would be provided to Australian and international authorities.
"We’ll collect as much information as possible for the ACCC (the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) as well as international law enforcement agencies," she said.
Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates said the families of Olympic athletes and even Olympic officials were caught up in the scam.
"Our sympathy goes out to them," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"We certainly aren’t in a position to step in, compensate, find substitute tickets or whatever."
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Olympic officials would ask a judge in San Francisco to shut down www.beijingticketing.com later Monday after the International Olympic Committee had been flooded with complaints about it from around the world.