Identified Scam:

Scammers Selling Fake Tickets on Craigslist to Events & More

It's all too common to buy a fake ticket on Craigslist. If you absolutely must buy a ticket from a Craigslist seller, be aware of the red flags.


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Updated 10 February 2021
Scammers Selling Fake Tickets on Craigslist to Events & More
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Identified Scam:

Key Finding

Fake and counterfeit tickets to sporting events, concerts, festivals, and even fake airline tickets are being sold on Craigslist.


Key Risk

You can lose hundreds and even thousands of dollars, not to mention the time and effort you spend going to the venue only to find out your tickets are fake and won't gain you entry.

Sections on this page
  1. What are Fake Tickets on Craigslist?
  2. Beat this Scam: Avoid Buying Fake Tickets on Craigslist
  3. Examples of Fake Tickets on Craigslist
  4. What to Do If You Buy Fake Tickets on Craigslist
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve bought a ticket via Craigslist only to discover it doesn’t let you into the venue, you’re not alone. As of 2018, scams involving fake tickets on Craigslist affected nearly 5 million would-be attendees every year because tickets these days are easy to copy and therefore easy to use in scams.

What are Fake Tickets on Craigslist?

Knowing how this scam works is the first step to protecting yourself (and your money) from it.

1. You Buy Tickets on Craigslist

Transferring money between individuals over a digital interface is routinely ungraceful—even more so when it comes to exchanging goods.

If it’s a ticket broker, they may have a more official route set up, a third-party system that allows you to enter your credit card information in exchange for emailed tickets.

If it’s an individual, they might ask you to pay them directly via PayPal, Venmo, or some other type of money exchange app. They might also bring up less usual ways to exchange money, like wire transfers, MoneyGram, or even gift cards.  

Rightfully, many people are wary of these options, however, so it’s also common to set up an in-person exchange when buying Craigslist tickets, where the seller will trade you the tickets for cash.

Often the scammer will not show you the tickets until after you've given them money for them, which makes it difficult for you to verify they are real. 

Example of What a Scammer Will Say

I do not send pictures of the tickets before payment. Please send payment to me first and I will send you the tickets by mail.

2. You Find Out They Are Fake Tickets
 

If you paid for the tickets directly, whether online or through an app, you might never get the tickets at all. If you’ve made arrangements to meet with the seller after paying them, it’s also possible that they never show up.

If you’ve waited to meet up in person to get an eye on what you’re buying, you’ll be given fake tickets (usually photoshopped or copied) and only find that out when you get to the gate, and they don’t work.

Some fake tickets may be counterfeits, some may be flagged as stolen, or some may even be for a similar event that already happened.

Thanks to software like Photoshop, it's getting easier for scammers to make counterfeit tickets look extremely legitimate, which is why this scam is one of the most common found on Craigslist.

Beat this Scam: Avoid Buying Fake Tickets on Craigslist

This scam is easy to fall for, especially when events sell out quickly and you have no other option than to buy tickets from a private seller. Unfortunately, there's no quick and easy way to beat this scam—it's not as easy as not opening an attachment or link.

How to Beat This Scam

You should always try to do these three things first before handing over money for tickets on Craigslist:

  • Ask for a photo of the tickets
  • Verify the seller's identity
  • Ask for additional information (such as the barcode number of the ticket)

Ask For a Photo of the Tickets

Photos of the actual tickets you’re buying can help you evaluate how they look, compared to what tickets from this seller and venue typically look like.

Many fake tickets on Craigslist are the products of good printers and basic Photoshop skills. Look into the authorized ticketing company—like Ticketmaster, for example—to get an idea of what their name and logo should look like on the ticket.

If you can track down any images of previous tickets sold by this company, you can compare those to what you plan on purchasing. Keep your eye on the details, like the general layout and type of information listed on the ticket.

You can also look into the seats listed on the ticket (or ask the seller for seat numbers) and check against the actual venue’s website, to see whether those seat numbers actually exist.

It would help if you also asked the seller to provide you with a copy of the invoice or receipt for the tickets. Make sure to match the name on the receipt against the name of the person you’re dealing with.

If you have a photo of the ticket or the barcode, you can call the event venue or official ticket seller to make sure the ticket valid before you hand over any money.

Verify the Seller's Identity

Is this person a licensed online ticket broker? (You can usually find this information on the listing itself or perhaps the seller’s website if one is given.)

If they are a licensed broker, you can look into their company reviews for a good clue on how they’ve treated previous transactions.

If you’re dealing with a person, you can try searching on Craigslist for other tickets they’ve sold in the past and see if there have been any complaints posted on their activity.

Ask for Additional Information

If you’re dealing with season tickets for a sports team or something similar, ask the seller for their account number or the ticket's barcode number (which they can find on top of their tickets). Once you have the number, you call the team or ticketing agent to confirm that the tickets are registered under the same name as the person you’re dealing with.

Fake tickets on Craigslist are all too common, and unfortunately, they can be difficult to spot.

How to Identify Fake Tickets on Craigslist

The actual posts selling the tickets can look like any other legitimate post selling tickets. But there are some tell-tale signs of a scam to look out for, such as:

  • Who the seller is
  • The ticket price
  • The reason why the tickets are on sale

Personal Seller Vs. Ticket Broker
 

Much of the problem comes from clicking on those personal ads.

Ticket brokers are typically more established businesses, which puts a high premium on reputation. Something like selling fake concert tickets, and becoming known for that, could quickly sink an operation.

Individuals have far less to lose—and can much more easily create throwaway profiles—which is why you’re much more likely to encounter Craigslist scams here. (Although some ticket brokers are known to sell flawed merchandise, too!)

Safety Tip

Buy tickets from third-party websites like SeatGeek.com or StubHub.com. Legitimate websites like these offer a 100% buyer guarantee, so you have peace of mind that your tickets are real and will let you in the venue.

Price
 

One thing to specifically look at is the price. If it seems way too good to be true, it probably is. For example, if it’s an event routinely fetching $500 per ticket, and they’re being offered to you at $100, that might be a red flag.

Why the Tickets Are Available
 

Another tell-tale sign of fake tickets on Craigslist may be the reason the seller gives for dumping the tickets. A last-minute change of plans? An out-of-town relative? A sick cat? Whatever the reason they give, ask yourself whether it seems legitimate.

What Do the Scammers Want?
 

Mostly, your money.

This scam is typically much more frustrating or disheartening than it is dangerous, with its most significant impact hitting your wallet and any plans for a fun night out.

Still, if you exchange funds through a wire transfer, MoneyGram, or another method that requires a bit more personal information, there may be more at stake regarding the use of your identity.

In these cases, it’s important to contact your credit reporting agency to give them a head’s up about the situation and possibly put a freeze on any new purchases or lines of credit taken out under your name. You should also keep your eye on things, especially your bank account and credit card activity. 

Who Are Fake Ticket Sellers Targeting?
 

People looking for tickets to events are the ones most likely to encounter this scam, of course. Still, you may be more likely to see fake ticket offers crop up around, especially in-demand events or something taking place very soon.

This fraud is so effective due to a large number of legitimate tickets being sold on Craigslist every day and the built-in interest—sometimes even desperation—a scammer can conclude a person must have if they’re looking for last-minute ticket options. This gives the sellers here by far the upper hand.

Examples of Fake Tickets on Craigslist

It's very difficult to tell real tickets from fake ones these days, thanks to applications like Photoshop and the ability for tickets to be printed online. The best thing to do before buying tickets on Craigslist is to ask the seller for the ticket barcode so you can verify the tickets are indeed legitimate by the venue or official ticket seller first. 

Fake vs real ticket
It can be very hard to tell the difference between a real and a fake ticket. Sometimes the only way to check if a ticket is fake or not is to call the event organizer directly. (Source: ScamStopperNYC)

What to Do If You Buy Fake Tickets on Craigslist

Getting scammed never feels good. It’s frustrating and devastating—and that goes double when it also destroys your plans for a fun night out.

Still, there are ways to deal with Craigslist scams involving fake tickets that might help take away some of the sting and help you avoid a total loss in the future.

How to (Possibly) Get Your Money Back
 

The way you pay for the tickets will have a lot to do with whether you can try to get your money back.

While methods like Venmo and PayPal may seem riskier, the services may offer you a small chance to get your money back—or, at the very least, file a report asking for retribution. Using these services—or your credit card—also establishes a digital trail against the seller, which could help future investigations.

Report Fake Tickets
 

Local law enforcement would be the appropriate body to handle such a scam. You can call the local police to file a report, offering them information on the person who scammed you.

Even if the seller gave you a fake name, email address, or phone number, you could offer important details about their communication style or the way they look.

Another option is to take the issue up with Craigslist itself, filing a complaint about the seller.

Avoid Future Fake Tickets On Craigslist
 

The best way to avoid getting scammed by Craigslist sellers in the first place is to avoid buying tickets of any kind via Craigslist.

If there’s an event coming up that you can't miss, it’s best to try to get the tickets outright from the venue or ticketing agency.

If tickets are already sold out, third-party sellers like StubHub offer guarantees (at a higher price, of course) that your tickets will be legitimate. And often, in the rare case that you are sold a fake ticket, you’ll get a full refund.

If you must turn to Craigslist or other seller-to-seller services to get into the event, be careful. Stay wary. Re-read the advice above about spotting a scammer or a fake ticket and the safest way to pay for the product.

It’s also a good idea to meet in person with the seller, if possible, to evaluate the tickets. Then, if you decide to make the purchase, use one of these digital methods. You can ask them for their Venmo or PayPal information on the spot or even have them meet you at the venue and pay them once the ticket is successfully scanned.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I avoid Craigslist ticket scams?

The best way to avoid a Craigslist ticket scam is to buy tickets from the official ticket seller or a site that offers buyer protection, such as StubHub.com, Ticketmaster.com, or VividSeats.com. If you still want to buy Craigslist tickets, protect yourself by staying vigilant and looking out for red flags.

Does PayPal cover Craigslist ticket scams?

If you paid for a ticket using PayPal, you may be covered under PayPal's Purchase Protection. You'll need to open a dispute in PayPal's Resolution Center and explain what happened. Note that if you bought the tickets in person, the PayPal Purchase Protection will not cover the transaction. 

What questions can I ask a Craigslist ticket seller to confirm the tickets are real?

When buying Craigslist tickets, you should ask the seller to send you a photo of the ticket or at least give you the barcode or confirmation number of the ticket so you can confirm with the venue that the ticket is valid. 

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