Carnival patrons wary after possible e-ticket glitch

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Island E-Tickets allows patrons to purchase virtual tickets online. – Jeff K Mayers

THE feasibility of being able to sit at home – or anywhere – and purchase tickets for an event with the click of a mouse or tap on the screen has been welcomed and celebrated in modern times.

But many are now reconsidering the trust placed in this thriving industry, locally, after a recent glitch at a prominent e-ticket company which caused chaos.

Throughout the 2024 Carnival season, patrons experienced issues with online tickets purchased via popular website Island E-Tickets, which prevented them from entering events.

The website allows registered accounts to buy virtual tickets for events including boat rides, fetes, concerts, among others. A ticket with a unique QR code is provided. Both credit and debit cards can be used.

Some customers took to X (formerly Twitter) to complain that upon arriving to events and having their tickets scanned, they were told the same ticket was already scanned minutes or hours before. Other tickets were deemed fraudulent.

Among the events people complained about were Tribe’s Las Jam Carnival 2024, Soaka Street Festival, Panorama, Dimanche Gras, and Breakfast Is.

When they complained to event officials, the customers said, they were told to contact Island E-Tickets.

The company has not yet issued a public statement, but told Newsday, “We’re currently in the process of reviewing the data provided to us by the company who managed the door services to better understand what happened. As soon as we have a better picture of what happened at Las Jam we will release a public statement.”

Refused entry to fete

One man, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Sunday Newsday he bought tickets for his girlfriend and himself via the website for Tribe’s Las Jam, which was held on February 17.

He said he bought both tickets since January 16 and provided Sunday Newsday with the digital receipt. Each ticket costed $540.

“Being familiar with the digital era of tickets, we didn’t share them with anyone or send or show it to anyone…This was the only party that we said we would go to to get a true Carnival experience. However, little did we know, we would be robbed of same.”

They drove from Maraval to the venue – The Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo – and arrived at 5.45 pm. They then reached the entrance at which tickets are scanned at 5.55 pm.

“I let my girlfriend go through the door first. She scanned her ticket and proceeded into the venue. I went up next and scanned my ticket, only for the lady at the door to tell me that my ticket has been used 17 minutes ago.

“I was in utter shock and disbelief. I looked at her and said that’s impossible – I just got here. She told me, ‘Let me try again.’ She tried once more and it said again: Used 17 minutes ago.”

The man said he felt a mixture of shock, sadness and anger, which led him to ask for either a representative from Tribe or Island E-Tickets to speak to.

“She told me that it’s an Island E-Ticket problem and there’s nothing they can do. Shortly after, an old man in a Bliss T-shirt and a security came up to me and told me to leave the entrance.”

He tried showing them his digital receipts and explaining but they were not interested in hearing him out.

“The security next to me then proceeded to embarrass me and speak loudly to me saying, ‘Your ticket has been used. Please do not try to enter the fete. The tickets are sold out and you do not have one.’

“We paid $80 to park, (my girlfriend) he wore a $2,500 (custom-made) Monday wear, plus stockings that she paid $120, all bought for the occasion.

“I feel cheated and robbed and I feel like because of Trinidad’s culture, no justice will be afforded to me.”

He said he has e-mailed both Tribe and Island E-Tickets about the issue but is yet to get a response.

Another patron had the same issue. He e-mailed the ticket outlet while there, explaining that his ticket was accepted but his friends’ were not. All tickets were bought on the website.

One of the responses from the company said, “There is no way someone can gain access to the tickets in your account. So the only ticket you know was not shared for sure was the one ticket that you used and worked successfully. The other two tickets you shared (with the two friends) and aren’t sure or at least can’t say definitely that they weren’t shared (to people other than them).

The patron then replied with screenshots of several people on social media complaining about the same issue.

Others took to Facebook to describe a similar experience with Soaka Street Festival, adding that only after liaising with someone they knew working at the event that they were let in.

Possible data breach

IT consultant Shivam Teelucksingh told Sunday Newsday the circumstances of the incident suggest “potential unauthorised access to ticketing databases or systems.

“This could indicate a breach in the authentication and authorisation mechanisms employed by Island E-Tickets, allowing unauthorised individuals to manipulate ticket status information.”

He added, “(It could have been) A simple phishing attack on someone who had admin access to the system or even self sabotage…”

But he said it “underscores the critical importance of implementing robust access controls, encryption mechanisms, and intrusion detection systems to safeguard sensitive customer data and prevent unauthorised access.”

On the company being mum about the incident, he said such outlets should promptly notify customers of any such security incidents.

“This is just another factor that data protection and cybercrime laws should follow when it’s being implemented in the country.”

Mind-boggling event

Ticket Gateway is another popular e-ticketing website. Its owner Andros Belfonte told Sunday Newsday it is “mind-boggling” how something like this could happen, adding that it has never happened with his website.

Even his personal friend, who flew to TT from Dominica just for the Soaka Street Festival event, encountered this issue. He was told his ticket was already scanned when he reached the entrance.

“That is impossible to happen,” Belfonte said. “All of these things are computer programmed.”

For his company, he said cybersecurity is of utmost importance, which is why it does not ask for people’s ID or credit card information to be saved on the site.

“We are the only country in the world that has back-to-back parties practically every day for two whole months. That is a lot of scanning and a lot of tickets. Something like this happening is really scary.”

He recalled years ago when a particular artiste introduced e-tickets for their event, patrons tried sharing the unique QR codes with their friends in hopes they could also get in.

He said such glitches or issues would fall entirely on the e-ticket company responsible for the event.