2 moms team up to foil Taylor Swift Eras Tour ticket scam on Facebook

ByRenee Koury KGO logo
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
2 moms team up to foil Taylor Swift ticket scam on Facebook
A friendship was born between two Bay Area moms through a hacked Facebook account, phony Taylor Swift tickets, and contacting 7 On Your Side.

NOVATO, Calif. (KGO) -- An amazing story about two Bay Area moms who'd never met each other -- until they both fell victim to the same scam. It involved a hijacked Facebook account and phony Taylor Swift tickets. Both moms contacted 7 On Your Side.

It started out rocky. One mom was tricked into buying fake concert tickets. She thought the other mom was the seller. Turns out they were both scammed -- but, out of a stressful ordeal, a friendship was born.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm gonna get these tickets and it's gonna be so great!'" said Julie Deruvo of Novato.

It all began when Deruvo was trying to take her daughters to see Taylor Swift in concert.

"I'm a single mom and I thought, 'Hey this is going to be really amazing...' And my daughters are huge fans..." said Deruvo.

VIDEO: BBB warns about Taylor Swift concert ticket scams as Bay Area shows near

The BBB has already gotten at least 30 reports involving fake Taylor Swift tickets nationwide this year. Here's what experts say you should do and look for when buying a ticket.

But tickets had sold out instantly last fall and now they were going for thousands of dollars each.

"So I've been keeping my eye open... hoping I could find a deal," Deruvo said.

And then, she saw an ad on Facebook Marketplace, showing Leslie Nikula was selling four tickets to the show at Levi's Stadium.

"I looked at her Facebook profile. She was a mom. She was in Santa Rosa, not far from me," said Deruvo.

Not only that, Deruvo and Nikula had a mutual Facebook friend. It seemed perfect.

"I jumped on it and said you know, 'Are the tickets still available,' 'Yes,' 'How much,' '$350,'" she said.

RELATED: StubHub seller won't give girls Taylor Swift tickets purchased 6 months ago. See what happens next

Two Bay Area moms bought Taylor Swift concert tickets on StubHub for their 13-year-old daughters, but StubHub told them it didn't have the tickets.

The seller messaged back giving the price, the seat numbers, even showing the Ticketmaster receipt.

"I kept thinking, 'OK this is great.' And I sent the Venmo," Deruvo said.

25 miles up the road in Santa Rosa, Leslie Nikula was at her wit's end. Hackers had taken over her Facebook account, and she couldn't get it back.

"I said, 'Dang, I can't even tell people this isn't really me,'" Nikula said. "I woke up to an email from Facebook saying, 'We've changed your email address.'"

The hackers had switched the email and password on her account, locking her out.

Nikula tried to reset the password, but Facebook sent links to the hacker's email, not hers.

"So it was just going in circles," said Nikula. "There's just no phone number. There's no one to do any kind of a chat with. It's like an abyss, black hole."

Even worse, she found out the hackers were posing as her, and selling phony Taylor Swift tickets on Facebook Marketplace.

"And my name is there and my face..." said Nikula. "Then the flood of text messages from friends and family, 'Is this really you?'... It was really upsetting. I was really mad and felt really helpless."

The hackers had blocked Nikula from her own account so she couldn't see the offers pouring in for tickets -- or warn potential victims -- like Deruvo.

"My emotions that day were like this, like a roller coaster up and down,'' said Deruvo. She had just sent $1,300 through Venmo to a person she thought was Nikula, then waited to surprise her daughters with tickets.

RELATED: CA family thought they mistakenly got Taylor Swift tickets, turned out to be 'commemorative items'

Many want to be a VIP to a Taylor Swift concert. One lucky family got the chance after VIP commemorative items were sent to their house by mistake.

But her excitement quickly faded.

"Once I sent the money, they responded back saying, 'Oh, we can't send the tickets... you need to pay a $250 name change fee'... and then it was one problem after another..." said Deruvo.

No tickets came. Deruvo panicked.

"I sent a message saying please just send the Venmo back..." Deruvo said.

The imposter blocked her messages.

"I was like, oh god, a pit in my stomach. I think I got scammed $1,300," Deruvo said.

Deruvo had sent the money through Venmo as instructed to a person named "Brian." Quickly, she stopped the payment from her bank.

But Venmo had already gone ahead and paid the scammer.

A Venmo email said even though the bank stopped payment, "Don't worry we covered you! Brian has the funds."

"It was like a punch to the gut," said Deruvo. "I was super upset. And I texted my daughters... I got scammed... there were lots of tears..."

Nikula, meanwhile, was desperate to get the imposter out of her account, knowing a crime was underway with her name attached. But Facebook's automated reset system gave only error messages. And Facebook had no live person to help.

"They give you a link and you click on the link and the link doesn't work," said Nikula. "And I thought to myself, 'I have to find another avenue to get this resolved and get this fixed.'"

Deruvo posted scam alerts on Facebook -- thankfully, friends saw them and told Deruvo that it wasn't really Nikula.

"'I know Leslie, she's a mom, she's a business owner, she's a great person...' I got her cell phone number and the two of us started talking," Deruvo said.

"Once we spoke on the phone, we knew, you know, we were both real people," Nikula said. "I just wanted Julie to have her money back and that's really all I cared about."

"And she and I teamed up," Deruvo said. "And we both said, 'Let's contact 7 On Your Side.'"

And they did.

7 On Your Side contacted both Venmo and Facebook. Could we undo this scam?

First, Venmo said Deruvo should have used its purchase protection feature. By toggling a button before paying, a buyer can make a claim for a possible refund if they don't get what they paid for.

"I've been using Venmo since day one and I never knew about this," Deruvo said.

But Venmo did investigate her case. The company said it kicked the scammer off the platform, and it's going after the money he took.

Best of all, Venmo refunded Deruvo's $1,300 after all.

"And I was just so relieved, it was the best news I could have received," said Deruvo.

As for Nikula? A Facebook staffer sent a special reset link. It took several tries but the hacker is gone. Nikula is back.

"I think they picked the wrong two gals to mess with, quite frankly," said Nikula.

"We're actually going to try to meet and celebrate all of this..." said Deruvo.

Why wait?

7 On Your Side brought Deruvo and Nikula together, virtually. Out of a crisis, a friendship grew.

"Unfortunately we won't be going to Taylor Swift together," said Deruvo.

"No, which would be really a lot of fun, but..." said Nikula.

But they did defeat a scam!

"It was, 'Let's get 7 On Your Side involved,' and then it was..." said Deruvo.

"'Hallelujah!'" said Nikula.

The Better Business Bureau reports the very same Taylor Swift ticket scam is growing on social media, so watch out. A huge thanks to Venmo for returning Deruvo's money and to the Facebook staffer who helped restore Deruvo's account. As for the Taylor Swift tickets? They had to just "Shake It Off."

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

7OYS's consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

You may also email 7OYS@KGO-TV.COM.

Please note the address uses the letter "O", not zeros. Be sure to include your full name, email, street address, and phone number.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live