People trying to buy Broadway tickets on Ticketmaster are finding that they can't complete their ticket purchase due to missing CAPTCHA text from reCAPTCHA

TicketMaster uses Captcha software to ensure that anyone who attempts to buy tickets on their website is in fact human. The problem is that the CAPTCHA text prompt often appears blank, which means even a human cannot figure out what to do to continue with the purchase. Ticketmaster titles the window a "Security Check," but it is clearly an anti-ticket broker and ticket-bot mechanism that is wholly unreliable. The error version of the screen has the unintended reverse effect that it actually stops normal ticket buyers from making their ticket purchase and makes it easier for ticket brokers to buy up all the tickets, because they are often more technically savvy than the general ticket buying population and are able to resolve the issue for themselves.

The Ticket Buying Process on TicketMaster

When Broadway ticket buyers go through the reCaptcha process of purchasing tickets at -- which handles such popular Broadway shows as Wicked, Disney's The Lion King and Mary Poppins -- on the final transaction screen users inevitably encounter a rectangular box with an image that shows a distorted string of letters, known as a CAPTCHA, which the ticket buyer must then type in a box in order to move to the next stage of the ticket purchase. This is a security check designed to prove that the ticket buyer is an actual human being and not a computer program created by ticket brokers to buy up large numbers of tickets at once. This "security test" is on the final screen, so users have already spent a good deal of time making sure that the dates, times, location, and prices of their tickets are all correct, only to find out that they cannot move forward when they get an empty CAPTCHA box on the final screen. It has to be one of the most infuriating errors that users have ever experienced and Ticketmaster does not recognize its impact on regular ticket buyers.

The reCAPTCHA Problem Occurs at The Worst Possible Time

If you come across this Ticketmaster road block, there are a few things that you can try. You can click the Refresh button on your web browser to see if a CAPTCHA will properly load. If it doesn't, you will need to start a new session and go through your Broadway ticket purchase from the beginning, which unfortunately means that the system will no longer hold the seats you chose. If you're lucky, they will still be available when you enter your new buying session. If you are still not getting an image in the reCAPTCHA box, then you may need to simply wait a few minutes -- or longer -- and try again later. The problem leaves you high and dry at the worst possible time in the ticket transaction.

The Ticketmaster "Official Solution" To The Problem of the blank CAPTCHA

Ticketmaster does not yet have a clear solution on the blank CAPTCHA screen problem and they offer up various solutions in a bid to solve the problem when they are called by customers. Their various suggested solutions have so far been: reboot the PC, use a different browser, use a different machine, different internet provider, upgrade Windows, upgrade Java, try a different day, different show, use a different credit card, and use a Mac instead or a PC (of course when the problem occurs on a Mac, they suggested that we use a PC).

Ticket Brokers and Hackers Launch War on CAPTCHA and Ticketmaster

The Ticketmaster security check, run by reCAPTCHA, was developed by tech-savvy Carnegie Mellon University in 2001. CAPTCHA was designed to digitize the text of books while protecting websites from bots attempting to access restricted areas. Google acquired reCAPTCHA in 2009. Many reports have surfaced about the various forms of hacks that programmers have used to thwart the various incarnations of CAPTCHA. Most of these hacks have been based around side-stepping the control of the product, i.e. trying to get the program to "fake" being a human. One newer version of these hacks is the Denial of Service attack on the TicketMaster's reCAPTCHA product. No longer just for fun, the Denial of Service attack allows a ticket broker to launch an attack on Ticketmaster's website at the same time that they are purchasing all the ticket inventory that they can lay their hands on. It is starting to appear that ticket brokers are now using this technology, and they may be the ones locking regular ticket buyers out of their ticket transaction on the Ticketmaster website.