An American website at the centre of a worldwide scam involving tickets for the Beijing Olympics appears to have shut down just hours before a United States court was to order it to close.
The site, beijingticketing.com, has cheated possibly thousands of people worldwide, including at least a dozen New Zealanders, by taking payment for, but not delivering, Olympics tickets.
In a mass email to upset customers, a website representative, "Alan Scott", said the site itself was a victim of a ticket supplier which has filed for bankruptcy. The site is registered to the United States and claims to have offices in Sydney, London and New York.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee has received at least a dozen complaints from people who believed they had purchased valid tickets. Many of those affected in New Zealand are family members of athletes.
Barry Maister of the New Zealand Olympics Committee says there could be many more local people affected who have not lodged a complaint.
Mr Maister says the committee regrets that ticketing has been difficult, meaning some people may have felt compelled to take risks when purchasing a pass to the Games. He says the committee has worked to get genuine tickets for the affected people.
Premier Events New Zealand is the only official retailer in New Zealand of tickets to the Olympic Games. Managing director Malcolm Beattie says people caught up in the scam will not see their money again.
Some people overseas are reported to have paid nearly $80,000 for false tickets.
An Australian man, Connor Agnew, who says he has lost almost $35,000 in the scam, says complaints were being made about the website ticket seller as far back as March.
Credit card company Visa says anyone affected should immediately contact the bank that issued their card to organise a refund.
Spokesperson Andrew Woodward, says any merchant who accepts Visa has to honour the transaction, and if they do not, they or their bank bears the cost.