As some of you may have read, more than 50 people were denied entry into today’s Patriots game after buying fake tickets on Craigslist. Let me paint the picture…
You just spent the morning dressing in your best Pats gear, driving to Foxboro (paying a small fortune to park), tailgating your ass off (spending a small fortune on food and drink), and getting hyped-up to watch the Patriots sans-Moss take on the best team in the AFC (prepared to have no voice on Monday). Upon reaching the ticket gate, you receive the awful news, the tickets you just spent a good chunk of change on were counterfeit. Can you imagine that feeling of helplessness, rage and embarrassment? Because some greedy asshat decided to suck at life even worse than he/she already is sucking at life, your day/weekend is now ruined.
I’ve said this before, but scammers truly are the scum of the earth. Unfortunately, technology + greed + sucking at life means scams aren’t stopping any time soon. So it’s about time I revisit this topic and post some helpful tips on how to avoid counterfeit tickets on Craigslist. By no means is this the gospel on the subject, but taking these steps should help mitigate the risk of using peer-to-peer exchange sites like Craigslist:
- Never wire someone money for tickets and in most cases, never pay for your tickets with PayPal or send a money order via mail. Does this mean you have to drive and meet someone with cash? Absofrickinlutely. Does this mean you may be limiting your options because some sellers will only accept payment via PayPal or a money order sent via mail? Absofrickinlutely. Does this mean your decreasing the risk involved in this exchange? Absofrickinlutely. (So why do I say, “in most cases?” Because there are some good folks out there in Craigslist land, and there are real season ticket holders who can email you tickets from their account, saving both of you the time required to meet up. In these cases, PayPal is one method often used. However, I’d do some serious digging before I went this route, including a call to the season ticket department to find out if this individual was really a season ticket holder.)
- Pay with cash, check, or credit card. Obviously, cash is king. The advantages of paying in cash are obvious; you get to meet the seller in person AND take any vital info that you think is necessary (license plate, phone numbers, etc. – I’m serious, do this everytime). In rare cases, you can pay with a check or credit card, which give you as the buyer the most protection.
- Deal with buyers in-state only. Once again, you’re limiting your options by talking to in-state sellers only, but more importantly, you’re limiting your risk. Everyone has a story and some may be perfectly legit, but the second you hear, “I’m from Boston but live in Florida now, so I’ll send the tickets to you in the mail or have someone meet you for the exchange,” hang up the phone or delete the email. It’s just not worth it. Say it with me, “It’s just not worth it,” sing it louder, “It’s just not worth it.”
- Hard tickets rule! I get it, we live in a world where technology allows us to do some amazing things. I remember the first time I saw a ticket taker scan my stub at Fenway, I almost lost it on the spot. Unfortunately, technology has also made it easier to run these scams today. For example, what’s to prevent the seller from photocopying the print-at-home ticket numerous times? I’ve read a few cases where one seller made up to 500 photocopies of one ticket and sold them on Craigslist! Also, in many cases, hard tickets are coming from season ticket holders. As a Sox season ticket holder, my version of Christmas in March is the day those tickets arrive in the mail. Kinda like that scene in Fever Pitch, only less corny, less Jimmy Fallon, and more me. To summarize, NEVER buy a print-at-home ticket. Say it with me, “It’s just not worth it,” sing it louder, “It’s just not worth it.”
- Buy from a season ticket holder. Obviously season ticket holders have much more skin in the game and are less likely to run a scam on a buyer. So how do you know if someone is a season ticket holder? Ask them for other games. That’s usually one good way to quickly tell if someone is legit or not.
- Get a phone number. This is an easy one right? If someone is unwilling to give you a phone number, repeat after me, “It’s just not worth it,” sing it louder, “It’s just not worth it.” None of these tips individually will guarantee a scam-free exchange, but added up, should help eliminate some of the risk.
- Pay attention to the email address. Yup, this is something I’ve noticed more and more, but email addresses such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com” look more like addresses that were created in the last few weeks than someone’s personal email address. On the other hand, I’d be more comfortable dealing with firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com because 1) it looks like I have someone’s full name, just in case the transaction turns sour, and 2) in the case of @fidelity.com, I now have someone’s place of work. Just a hunch, but I bet none of these recent Craigslist scams came from someone using a work email address as their point of contact.
- Google is your friend. Is it stalkerific to Google the crap out of both the email address and name of seller? Absofrickinlutely. Is it something I do every single time I connect with someone on Craigslist? Absofrickinlutely. If I Googled firstname.lastname@example.org and read a negative post on Craigslist about this particular seller, would I buy tickets from them? Not with Hank or Hal Steinbrenner’s money (well, maybe).
- Post structure/information matters – I want details in my post, I want the right terminology, I don’t want to read “Balcony seats at Fenway” or “Upper Bowl at the Garden.” If you’re a season ticket holder, you know that your “upper bowl” seats at the Garden are Balcony seats, and they start with a 3 in their section name. Same goes with Fenway, unless you’re smoking something funny, you can’t possibly think that your roof deck seats are “Balcony” level, so cut the crap. Also, I want a detailed story in my post. Tell me where the seats are, where we can meet, how much the tickets are, and any other relevant info that will make me comfortable buying these seats. Unfortunately, Craigslist has devolved to the point where it’s now your job as the seller to convince me that your seats are legit. So do it!
- If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. No chit, now this is pure genius, right? This line right here is why I get paid the big bucks. If you look one post down, you’ll see a post from me talking about today’s game, and how difficult it was for me to find tickets at face value. Well guess what, after hours searching through posts, I did find a few pairs of seats listed at “below face,” but I choose not to send those out. (The one I did send out was a single ticket, which has less value, and the pickup location was at Gillette prior to the game, and you would be sitting with the seller.) The market demand was obvious, everyone wanted this ticket and getting face value was a steal. So if you’re trying to sell me a pair of tickets for below face value, you better be picking me up, driving me to the stadium, cooking me steaks, walking with me to the gate, and sitting next to me during the game. Short of that, say it with me, “It’s just not worth it,” sing it louder, “It’s just not worth it.”
So there it is, 1366 words on why scammers suck and some tips on how to avoid them. I apologize in advance for spelling errors, I wrote this quickly with a splash of anger in my words.