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Looking for ways to combat online scalpers

Despite safeguards to protect buyers, online scalpers are using high-tech programs to skip the electronic lines of legitimate ticket services and sell seats at big markups on the Web.

Industry experts say the problem is reaching critical mass.

Premium floor seats for Bruce Springsteen's show at Madison Square Garden on Friday are listed on secondary ticket broker sites at more than $5,900 for a pair, while the lowest-priced pair is $200 -- a 129 percent increase from the face value, according to data provided by price tracker TiqIQ.com.

Meanwhile, fans eager to see Madonna at Yankee Stadium this fall will have to pony up more than $7,000 on the secondary market for a pair of premium floor tickets or pay $80 for the lowest-priced pair, a 51 percent increase from the face value.

Other acts affected this year by online scalping include Radiohead and German electronica group Kraftwerk, which is appearing next week at the Museum of Modern Art.

"There's a steady drumbeat of these instances, and I think we'll see quite a few more as the summer tour season gears up," said John Breyault, vice president for policy at the National Consumers League. "It's going to be a problem just like it was last year."

The issue generated headlines in January, when Springsteen fans complained that Ticketmaster's site repeatedly crashed. The world's biggest online ticket service said it's working with authorities to go after scalpers.

"Big acts mean big fan interest. Unfortunately this also means that scalpers are out in full force," the Ticketmaster statement said.

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"Early indications suggest that much of this traffic came from highly suspicious sources, implying that scalpers were using sophisticated computer programs to assault our systems and secure tickets with the sole intention of selling them in the resale market," the statement continued. "We want fans to know that we will continue to fight against these attacks on their behalf, and hope the incident draws greater attention to the need to take strong measures against those who violate the law and exploit artists and fans."

Ticketmaster has declined further comment since the Springsteen incident.

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