10 tips to avoid getting scammed by ticket scalpers


By Mike Frash //

Getting burned by a third-party ticket purchase hurts. Not only did you lose money to a greedy pig scalper-thief, but you likely missed a show or festival you really wanted to experience.

Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) canceled his first scheduled show in 35 years over insane ticket scalping last week, taking a stand against the state of New York for not allowing paperless ticket shows — that’s when everyone has to pick up their tickets at the box office before the event. So it got us thinking — what is the best methodology for acquiring tickets to sold-out shows?

So we asked for your third-party ticket-buying tips on Facebook and Instagram and incorporated them into this here list. Follow these tips and ya might get into that completely sold-out event coming up, possibly even for face value.


1. Ask Friends First
If you have any buddies that frequently go to concerts or sporting events, check in with them and see if they have a spare. Most casual second-source-of-income scalpers will hook up a friend.

Use your social networks! And once a friend agrees to sell to you for face, “you can use the TM transfer option (if venue allows it) to transfer tickets, voiding the current bar code, & supplying a new one to the buyer.” [Brando Rich]

2. Use the Secondary Ticket Market (and Be Prepared to Get Taxed)
StubHub has taken over the secondary ticket market in the US, and Ticketmaster’s T+ is also an option. (Does anyone else see a problem with Ticketmaster linking directly to their secondary market after you buy a ticket?)

You pay a premium for security and customer service should anything go wrong. Or as Ryan Cohn put it, “using verified sources like StubHub will help weed out the dickbags trying to scam.” It’s the kind of business model that gives economics professors wet dreams — take 15% from the seller and charge the buyer about 10%.

3. Use a Peer-to-Peer Social Ticketing
One under-the-radar resource for buying tickets to sold-out events is CashorTrade.org, a website for ethically selling or trading tickets — you can’t sell tickets for over face value. The website uses a community-based model, directly connecting fans without any markup or fees.

As Steven Wandrey mentioned, “CoT isn’t verified but if someone has good rep ratings on there the chances are much higher than not that the tickets are legit.” That said, Stubhub doesn’t verify ticket sales either (but the buyer does have a credit card on file), and CashorTrade.org will assist you if any problems arise. Using CashorTrade.org can save you money compared to using the mighty corporate behemoth StubHub.

4. Randoms on Facebook
After all above resources have come up dry, try to find someone within a trusted Facebook group or message board. For example, if you’re looking for a Coachella ticket, you could look for help in a Coachella group on Facebook or hit up the Coachella community forum.

A word of advise from John Kim: “If buying on FB, make sure the person you’re buying from has a legit profile. Few friends and a private page are some things to watch out for. Also, check their recent postings and comments. If someone hasn’t posted on FB in 2 years or has zero comments on their status updates, you might want to be careful.”

5. Craigslist (If You Must)
Craigslist should be the last resort if you are buying. It’s equally as risky as buying at the venue. If you’re really worried, ask a ticket seller if it’s cool to meet them in front or near their house. Usually scammers won’t send unsuspecting buyers to their house. Also, if paying via PayPal, choose the “Items/Goods” option for extra protection.

And repeat after me: Hard tickets are safer than digital tickets, unless you’re doing a Ticketmaster transfer. Digital PDFs can be sold over and over again — first buyer to the venue wins.



6. Don’t Buy From a Scalper
Try to buy from an event-goer instead of a scalper. Paco Martini wrote, “Don’t buy from dudes buying & selling tickets. They are usually scalper suspects. Look for someone heading in to the same show, and ask people near by if they need a ticket if you have extras.”

In similar fashion, Ben Baity advised, “I mostly go around and say ‘I need a ticket, NOT A SCALPER, just wanna go to the show’ and POOF, someone comes along and deals me in. For big shows, like Springsteen etc, it is easy as pie. Nobody goes to shows without tickets anymore. Boom, tix.”

Also Cassie Blaza L wrote, “When I do buy tickets off someone at the venue I gauge the persons’ validity by whether they look like they belong in that scene fashion and conversation wise. You can tell pretty quickly, at least in NYC, who the guys are that showed up outside exclusively to make money and leave. They aren’t dressed for a show, can’t name a song by the artist, don’t have friends with them, and generally don’t look like they belong.”

7. Check the Tickets
If buying from a scalper or show-goer, look at the tickets before you hand over your hard-earned cash. “Knowing what the ticket policy for an event is helps. Know how the tickets should look and what the event would consider an invalid ticket. Making sure all necessary barcodes are there and that none of them are repeating over multiple tickets.” [Christi Payeur]

Conor Boyland explains this concept in further detail: “What I usually do if I’m forced to buy a ticket on the street, is ask to see all of the tickets. check the numbercode (numbers above the barcode), if all of the numbers, or even a few pairs, match; they are fakes.” Also, know the the original cost of the ticket and be sure to check the one you’re buying to make sure it’s correct.

8. The First Key to Negotiation
Be willing to walk away. You have the leverage for non-sell outs and after an event starts, so don’t be afraid to negotiate. Is the event really sold out? Trust the person at the box office over a scalper.

9. Ask the Seller to Walk You to the Venue
Pete Mauch and Joel Hoffman both commented that you should ask the seller to walk with you to the venue entrance before buying. If they hesitate, keep that money in your pocket. Although, this is a slippery slope as it’s generally illegal to sell secondary tickets on venue property.

10. Let It Burn
This is pretty extreme but true. Ticketmaster tickets aren’t printed on normal paper, and if you light a small corner of a genuine ticket with a lighter or cigarette, it should turn black on the face but be completely unaffected on the back side. Also, Kevin Quandt pointed out that “most Ticketmaster tickets have a blueish layer of paper that is slightly visible, and that they are heat sensitive (also, best to not leave in hot car).”

Leave your sold-out ticket purchasing techniques below in the comments.

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