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.


Verified.org
Updated 1 December 2021
Scammers Selling Fake Tickets on Craigslist to Events & More
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 Ticket Scams on Craigslist?
  2. How Fake Ticket Scams on Craigslist Work
  3. Red Flags of Fake Tickets on Craigslist
  4. How to Avoid Fake Tickets on Craigslist
  5. What to Do If You Buy Fake Tickets on Craigslist
  6. 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 due to the ease of copying and creating fake tickets.

Although not all ticket sales through Craigslist are scams, it's a good idea to do your homework before buying from any seller online and opt for reputable sources such as Ticketmaster versus third-party sites.

Read more to learn how to spot fake tickets on Craigslist, what to do if you've been scammed, and how to prevent falling for this scam in the future.

What Are Fake Ticket Scams on Craigslist?

The fake ticket scam on Craigslist involves tricking buyers into purchasing tickets to a concert, show or event by selling fake tickets to the buyer.

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

Because most people won’t know if their tickets are counterfeit until they show up for the event, scammers know they can get away with the con pretty easily.

Why Does This Scam Work?

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. And scammers tend to know this if a person is looking for last-minute ticket options, giving them the upper hand in these transactions.

How Dangerous is This Scam?

Generally, this scam is 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. 

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How Fake Ticket Scams on Craigslist Work

Knowing how this scam works is the first step to protecting yourself (and your money) from it. Here's how the fake ticket scam on Craigslist works:

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 such as 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.  

Example of What a Scammer May 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.

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. 

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.

By this time it may be too late to get another ticket and the scammers will have already run off with your money.

 

Red Flags of Fake Tickets on Craigslist

It's very difficult to tell real tickets from fake ones these days. But 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. 

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

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)

The Seller's Information
 

Much of the problem comes from clicking on personal ads. Legitimate ticket brokers are typically more established businesses, which put 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 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 reputable 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.

The Price of the Tickets
 

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. 

If you can, search the venue and see how much those exact seats should cost (including additional fees) to get a ballpark figure of their actual price.

The Reason 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.

How to Avoid 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 con—it's not as easy as not opening an attachment or link.

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 on 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. Things to look for include:

  • The details: Look at the general layout and type of information listed on the ticket.
  • The seats: Review the seats listed on the ticket (or ask the seller for seat numbers).
    • Check them against the actual venue’s website to see whether those seat numbers actually exist.
  • The receipt: Ask 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.

Verify Tickets Before Purchasing

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 is 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.

Use a Credit Card to Buy the Tickets

Because most credit card companies offer protection against fraudulent charges, buying your tickets with your card can give you an added layer of protection. When you use your credit card and get scammed, you can call the number on the back of your card for help with recouping your money.

What to Do If You Buy Fake Tickets on Craigslist

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

Still, there are ways to deal with scams involving fake tickets on Craigslist 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 a 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. You can report fake tickets scams to the following organizations:

  • Craigslist: Take up the issue up with Craigslist itself so that they can take additional actions against the fake seller.
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB): Let the BBB know about the incident through its Scam Tracker so that they can investigate the issue and warn others.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC):  Report the incident to the FTC through its online form or call 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). 
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): Use the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center to notify them of the con. 

While you may think you're the only one who fell for this scam, giving authorities this type of info can help build a case against certain perpetrators who continue to scam buyers.

Avoid Buying 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. f 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 fake tickets on Craigslist, you’ll get a full refund.

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

Request to Meet in Person

It’s a good idea to meet in person with the seller (if possible) in a safe, public space or at a local police station to evaluate the tickets. 

If you decide to make the purchase after meeting in person, use digital methods of payment such as Venmo or PayPal. You can also request to meet them at the venue and only pay them once the ticket is successfully scanned.

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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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