Lucinda Dodd (with research by Impact’s Investigation team)
UoN freshers are being targeted by club event promoters who are incentivising people to pose as students to entice them to buy expensive club tickets long in advance. These ‘students’ give freshers the impression that they’ll miss out on popular club events if they don’t buy tickets rapidly. Impact investigates.
Before I first started university in 2019, I joined various Facebook groups and pages, hoping to find my flatmates and meet people on my course. I was quickly inundated with messages from people presenting themselves as fellow freshers, telling me I needed to buy various club passes and wristbands. While some people attempted to get to know one another in course chats, others just repeatedly probed: ‘Who has bought their freshers wristband?’
I transferred to the University of Nottingham (UoN) in 2020, and even with Covid-19 regulations preventing clubs from opening normally, accommodation and course chats were brimming with links to various events. Students were advised to purchase tickets quickly as events are ‘guaranteed to sell out’. These experiences, combined with chats with friends at different universities, confirmed how widespread this phenomenon is.
Impact has discovered numerous experiences of freshers feeling pressured to buy tickets to events before getting to university, worried if they don’t, that they will miss out on key university experiences. However, upon arriving at university, they find that no one they know is going to these events. The investigation by Impact has subsequently found that freshers are being manipulated and catfished by people promoting club events, who are exploiting student fears of missing out to sell expensive club tickets.
Throughout Britain, tickets for club events can be purchased on Fatsoma – which markets themselves as “provid[ing] the technology to connect people with the events they love”. Fatsoma is a platform which ticket sellers use to sell their events. For 2022 freshers at UoN, the following tickets are available to buy:
- ‘The Big Freshers Pass Nottingham’ – costing up to £109.99 (sold on Fatsoma by ‘The Big Fresher Pass’).
- ‘Notts Freshers Invasion 2022 Wristband’ – costing up to £43.99 (sold on Fatsoma by ‘Nottingham Freshers Events’).
- ‘Nottingham Freshers Welcome Party ZOO Theme Special’ – sold for up to £12 (sold on Fatsoma by ‘Nottingham Freshers Events’).
These events are promoted with labels including “we sell out very far in advance every year, so please make sure to buy your ticket early” and “less than 100 passes left”. Wristbands and event passes are sold in tiers, with students told that the closer they purchase to the event, the more expensive tickets are likely to be. The selling and promotion of these passes for this academic year began before results day – when potential UoN students did not know whether their place at the University was confirmed.
However, it is just after results day that the promotion for these events usually peak. Despite this, on the 23rd of August, a week after 2022 A Level results day, locations and dates for events in the ‘Invasion’ wristband were still “TBA” – calling into question the validity of the events. As of 10th September, the wristbands still did not indicate where and when all events would be.
Despite Facebook remaining the main way reps sell tickets, providing links to WhatsApp groups is also a technique used to promote tickets to freshers. Once they have managed to get someone to join a WhatsApp group, promoters spam chats with links, message individuals one-on-one, and from my experience, add you to lists so you are texted about events as well.
WhatsApp chats are filled with messages from people claiming to be students, messages include: “Has everyone bought that freshers wristband?” and “Yes party crew! Just got my place confirmed. Couple of questions for everyone 1) what’s everyone fav drink, 2) also what event is everyone off too in freshers?” (SIC)
I asked in the chat if anyone was worried about buying a wristband and getting to university and finding out their flatmates had different plans, the immediate reply was “everyone’s going”.
Shortly after this, another person in the chat told me “these are just all reps that want you to buy”.
As part of the investigation, after joining a WhatsApp group chat called ‘Uni of Nottingham 2022/23’, I began to receive individual messages from people claiming to be students trying to sell me club tickets. I was approached by one person going by the name ‘Gemma’, who told me they were starting at UoN this year, living in Cripps Hall. She messaged me: “We have all planned a big group night out to the icebreaker event it’s included on the big fresher pass! If you want to join, I can send you the link”. Her next message was a link to a £40 pass: “That’s the ticket most of us got and we got queue jump as well”.
Later, I told her I bought the ticket, and asked if there was an update on the plans. I have not yet received a response.
anyone of any age and location can become a rep
Impact looked into how to become a rep. To sign up, all you need to do is provide your name and email address before you are sent an email from Fatsoma confirming that your ‘rep request is accepted’. There was no screening process – meaning anyone of any age and location can become one.
Once a rep, Fatsoma gives you a ‘Rep Dashboard’ which tells you how many clicks and sales you have had from your links. My dashboard states that for every ‘Invasion’ wristband sold, I will get £3 commission, and for every ‘ZOO Theme special’ ticket sold, I will get £1.*
A Reddit thread from this summer sees a poster share that they had a social media marketing internship “for an events management company that markets student oriented parties”.
They write: “Day one, I got handed a company phone with 7 different university group chats on it. On this phone, I attended Bristol Uni, MMU [Manchester Metropolitan University], Notts and Trent, UOG [and] Swansea [for] childhood studies. My job was to basically act like a confused student in these group chats. Then I’d be prompted to ask about parties. I’d then shout out to my team, who [were] role playing students in the chat, to go to chat so and so. They’d then invite me to said event that we’re promoting.”
62% of students have been contacted by what they believed was another student to buy a freshers wristbands or ticket
Feeling bad about the situation, they end their post by stating that they’re quitting as “a girl said my fake account is her first friend in the U.K”. This poster’s story reminded me of my experience with ‘Gemma’.
An Impact survey found that 62% of students have been contacted by what they believed was another student to buy a freshers wristbands or ticket.**
Upon speaking to Nottingham students about their feelings towards the way in which tickets are sold to freshers, Tessa Williams, who is entering her third year at UoN shared: “Once a student firms their university choice they begin to look at the city they’re moving to and join certain groups which leaves them vulnerable to scammers. I can remember joining freshers WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups and people were saying everyone needed to get certain tickets or they’d miss out on freshers week.”
She continued: “Looking back, it annoys me even more as it is probably current students trying to promote tickets so they can take a cut of the profits. In doing so, they’re using already anxious students and pressuring them into giving over their money by claiming – as current students with knowledge of the city – that a student’s freshers experience would be ruined without buying certain club tickets which are overpriced.”
1 in 5 students felt they had been scammed by fresher event companies
Impact found concerns regarding the validity of the events too, one student informed us that when they were a fresher in 2020, they bought a ticket to an event which was cancelled owing to lockdown. They told us the organisers rescheduled the event and changed the location: “I couldn’t make the new date and never got a refund or any compensation”.
Our survey found that 1 in 5 students felt they had been scammed by fresher event companies.***
The intensity and scale of operations to sell tickets to freshers through fear mongering and catfishing is growing every year. Unless something changes, next year’s freshers are destined to become victims of avaricious club promoters and reps too.
Impact contacted Fatsoma, and changed the terminology in one instance on its request from ‘club promoter’ to ‘rep’. Impact asked Fatsoma if it wanted to make any further comment, and gave a deadline for this, but did not hear back before the stated deadline.
*No one on the Investigation Team has attempted to sell tickets
**63 students took part in this survey
***59 students took part in this survey
Investigations Team: Lucinda Dodd, Cora-Laine Moynihan, Arabella Mitchell, Kit Sinclair and Gareth Holmes