More than 100 HOYS visitors were duped into paying up to £200 for counterfeit passes for the popular Saturday (15 October) performances of the show — sold out a month previously.
All were left out of pocket; either turned away by security or weeded out between performances once the scam was discovered. The false tickets are now the subject of a police investigation.
HOYS organiser Grandstand Media Ltd attributed the uncovering of counterfeiters to cutting-edge security measures put in place at this year’s show — billed as the biggest ever, with 55,000 tickets sold.
Director Mark Wein said counterfeiters had copied special wristlets for exhibitors, riders and connections, which are not available to the public.
“These forged passes came to light on the Saturday morning, when a substantial amount were found during security checks — if I said in excess of 100 were uncovered, that would be a low estimate,” said Wein.
“As soon as it came to light, we checked all passes between performances to ensure we got all of them [counterfeit passes].
“The sad thing was that a lot of people felt like they were being treated like criminals [with heightened security checks]. But we had to be vigilant.”
As well as preying on fans desperate to see top show jumpers, the counterfeiters could have posed a health and safety risk by pushing attendance over capacity and steering public into restricted areas.
Wein added that it was sad to have to turn people away, including a couple who paid £400 for two passes, but everyone he spoke to appreciated what they had done was naive.
“It’s very sad to have to turn children away because they were victims of crime,” said Wein, referring to a family of six, who purchased counterfeit passes.
The fake passes are believed to have sold from £40 to £200 and were hawked from a multitude of local venues, including hotel foyers, stations and shopping areas.
Wein said he was also aware of “people associated with the sport” selling genuine passes to hawkers after they had used them. He said their names would be passed on to the police.
Police also seized an undisclosed quantity of similar counterfeit wristlets after searching a room at the Metropole Hilton Hotel, Solihull, in the early hours of Saturday morning.
A West Midlands police spokesman said three men, all from Hertfordshire, had been arrested in connection and released on bail until 10 December.