“A story about ticket scams on Craigslist”


“Dear PoPville,

I want to share something that happened to me and my friends this weekend.

“I successfully buy tickets off of craigslist all the time for shows at 9:30, U street music hall, Echostage, and sometimes, big budget shows at the Verizon Center. I will never do the last one again.

There is an organized system of ticket scammers for the biggest shows that come into town. I know many will read this and say “duh!” but I feel strongly in sharing this story so others do not repeat my mistake.


I bought 4 tickets to the Adele concert on Sunday off of a craigslist ad that was not supported by a third party scalper or any sort of buisness. Instead it was written earnestly, in the same way I would write an ad, with an above face-value price for four floor tickets. I went back and forth with the seller and settled on a price. I also asked the seller to send me a photo of the tickets, which he did. Also, in all the email exchanges, his messages were signed off with the “sent by an iphone” message.

The seller then asked for my phone number to meet, which I gave. He then offered to drop the price some more if I wanted an additional ticket. I said yes. Red flag, I know. At this point, I was buying four tickets at face value. I did notice that when he texted me from his 304 number that the text bubbles were green (suddenly not an Iphone user?). I asked if I could Venmo, he said cash only.

I purposefully picked a public space to make the exchange, was joined by a friend, and made sure some bystanders (the employees of Hazel restaurant, to be exact) were around us. (Thanks Hazel!) A young man walked over to us, handed me four printed Ticketmaster tickets (absolutely identical) and a print out invoice with Ticketmaster branding with his full name and address on it. Everything checked out. I made the guy linger for about 10-15 minutes to be sure we were seen by people. I thanked the guy and he left. I very much believe he is on the surveillance footage of Hazel restaurant. TBD.

Oddly, a couple of hours later, my friend and I were walking down U street and we ran into the guy and a bunch of his friends. We waved hello and he said “enjoy the show!” His friends seemed to know who we were and also said “have a great time!” and other things like that.

In the back of the my mind, the entire thing felt off but I ignored the feeling. I then noticed that the set time on the tickets was 30 minutes earlier than what Verizon Center posted online. At this point, there wasn’t anything I could do.

We show up at Verizon Center the next evening and all four tickets scanned as “void” on their scanners. We went to the box office and were met by THRONGS of people, some in tears, with void tickets in their hands, fighting to get in line for new tickets. It was amazing how many people were scammed for this one concert. I heard things like “Sir, that is not even a section in our venue.” Most interesting to me, Verizon Center plans for this and holds off sections for last minute purchases. We bought legitimate tickets on the spot and were told to file a police report.

The show was amazing and I’m grateful to the box office for holding spots for this purpose. However, the brazen attitude of this scammer, his friends, and the entire exchange angers me. I am headed to the police station today to share the story and I know I will be met with “Never buy tickets off of craigslist.” This upsets me so much because for smaller shows, I’ve had really honest exchanges with so many people in DC on craigslist. I’ve even met concert buddies that way! There’s something about these major concerts that bring the scammers out. For anyone that is buying tickets to Adele’s show tonight, PLEASE BE CAREFUL. Now I know to always consider going to the box office on the day of the show as they WILL have tickets even if a show says it is sold out!

Description of the seller: 6 feet tall, black, thin. Age: Late 20s, early 30s. Clothes: Red puffy vest, red baseball hat, matching red sneakers, khaki pants. His photo to me of the ticket is also attached.


He went by Sebastian.

In retrospect, the craigslist ad wasn’t that earnest, but there was no fanfare about it and I would write it that way, which is why I went with it. Also the section checked out as a real one for Adele’s show. The seating chart for her show is different from Verizon’s usual set up. The craigslist ad is still up.”

53 Comment

  • Sucks, sorry that happened.

    Through my days of the grateful dead and phish, there is a surefire way to determine if the tickets are real. A real ticketmaster ticket, when a flame is held to the back of the ticket, will only burn one side of the ticket. It has been named “the burn test”. google it.

    It is quite the harrowing thing to hold a flame to your ticket, but it works.

  • Can craigslist get involved if the ad is still up? Or maybe you can sting his ass by having someone try to buy more from him for tonight’s concert with the police’s help? I assume you’ve told them about the link to the ad and if not, you should do that fast so they can catch him.

    • The financial crimes detective at the police station said it requires a subpoena for Craigslist to offer up the source of an ad. That requires the interest of the district attorney and a 28 person grand jury. He said “$600 bucks is a lot of money for you and me, trust me, but if the crime is under $5000 it’s very expensive for us to go through all of that.” I did email Hazel Restaurant in hopes to get footage.

      (The ad is down. I reported it.)

      – OP

      • Since when do you need a grand jury to issue a subpoena? All you need is probable cause and a judge’s signature.

        • This is what the detective told me.

          • They are not going to pursue your case. Period. Crimes like this occur every day in the big city – they don’t have enough resources to pursue. Or they are lazy. Or they are jaded. Whatever. Yes, that gives people a free pass. But it’s just reality. I have had to literally beg police to purse blatant protective order violations by a repeat domestic violence offender with a history of psychiatric commitments. So, yeah, $600 is way way down the line.

        • You’re confusing warrants and subpoenas. Subpoenas for MPD cases are issued by the US Attorney by grand jury process. A search warrant just needs the signature of a supervisor, US Attorney supervisor and a judge. Getting the US Attorney to open up a grand jury for a case means it’s a violent crime or a property crime worth around $5k to $10k at the minimum.

          One could write up a warrant in lieu of a subpoena, but that’s if there’s probable cause in the case. Warrants for records usually take 5 to 14 days to come back while subpoenas take weeks. Judges sometimes looks askance if you’re trying for a warrant instead of a routine subpoena.

          Just looking at this case, if the assigned detective wanted to work the case they could, but that’ll probably involve unwinding online records, probably one or two warrants to unwind any info on whatever VOIP account the suspect probably used, then their phone/data records from their mobile provider and then you’ll have to hopefully get a solid ID on a photo array two to three months later att h the earliest. It’ll be a long case to get to the bottom of.

          • Okay, thanks for clarifying. Any suggestions on how to get my case that kind of attention? Do you think this article will help?

  • Why not take photo of the guy selling the ticket?

    • I wish I did and it crossed my mind in the moment, but that I ended up not having the guts to ask. My mistake.

      However, even then, the police station basically told me the amount of $$ is too little to pursue. Even with photo/video evidence.
      – OP

  • Wow. I really can’t tell the difference between the real and fake tickets.

  • The prevalence of counterfeit tickets for major shows, especially Hamilton, are thought to be one of the main drivers of StubHub axing its rewards program. The StubHub guarantee required them to buy a ticket on the open market when the buyer was fleeced, so even a huge company couldn’t deal with counterfeit tickets well. I’m sorry this happened, as we’d all like to hope that there aren’t jerks out there. Personally, if I am spending anything north of $100 on a ticket I’d go through a reseller and stay far away from Craigslist.

  • We got scammed for over $300 at the Verizon Center for the ACC tournament. Total bummer….

  • The same thing happened to me last night. As you mentioned, I was one of the people in line crying with fraudulent tickets. The scammer went by Kevin and requested to meet in Georgetown. In the hopes of finding ‘Kevin’ again to supplement my police report, I found a similar Craigslist ad for tonight’s show. The scammer is going by the name Courtney and is again requesting to meet in Georgetown. Adele fans beware!

  • Please stop wasting our tax dollars on your idiocy

      • Not really. While we’re sorry you got scammed, it’s not worth MPD resources to track down all these scammers. MPD has bigger fish to fry.

        • “If you have nothing nice to say…”
          Police departments exist for ALL crimes, big or small.
          OP, so sorry to hear this happened to you. I’m glad you were able to enjoy the show and hope humanity finds a way to restore your faith soon.

        • PettyShabazz and SW 20011, the police department very kindly told me that they don’t have the resources to pursue fraud crimes under $5000. So actually, no tax dollars to “waste”
          — OP

          • Tsar of Truxton

            Your case is only $600 or whatever, but if it is a larger scam it could be worth significantly more than $5000 (someone else above said something similar happened to them), especially if they do it to other shows, so I would think there should be interest by law enforcement, especially since the fakes seem pretty sophisticated.

  • That stinks. I have bought and sold tons of concert tickets on Craigs List, though usually for smaller shows. Sorry guy. What are you going to do if you see the guy around town again?

    • Will take suggestions… I can’t believe I ran into him and his friends that same night. They were coming out of a bar. Wonder if they had a celebratory night with my cash!

      I also still have his number… possibly a burner phone… but I bet he is selling Adele tickets with it today. Will take suggestions on what to text him that might make him give me some? of my money back.

    • I guess if you found a way to get his name and address you could sue him in small claims.

      Maybe the police would at least be willing to detain the individual you identify for the purpose of getting his personal information, even if it your word isn’t enough for an arrest.

  • SilverSpringGal

    I’m pretty amazed that that kid and his friend made a $1,000 bucks off the OP and probably similar amounts from other scammed consumers. They must have cleared so much cash O.O

  • def sucks to hear. when it comes to big shows like this, i always check out the facebook event pages, that way you atleast get to see who exactly the seller is/makes me lean towards people i have mutual friends with in case something goes wrong.

  • So I had a horror story with fake tickets sold in my name. I either dropped or someone picked my pocket at Capitale, and it’s suspected that one of their bartenders took it from me, he has prior charges of using other people’s credit cards. I didn’t realize I lost it until getting home at night at 3am, and figured, hey I’ll just cancel it in the morning, being in an inebriated state. So I woke up, and saw all these charges to my card, late night eateries and convenience stores, then the kicker, thousands of dollars for Moonrise festival EDM VIP tickets. So the guy basically bought a bunch of VIP tickets, and listed them on CL. The thing is, he gave out invalid tickets, either he sold duplicates, or he gave the others fakes, and went really early to get himself in. He was Asian like me, so he photocopied MY ID, and said he was me basically, and gave it to the person he sold it to. The person would find out later on when they got suspicious and called the ticketing company, to which they found out it was invalid. Then they called the number they used to meet up with the guy, and the number was invalid, the guy probably used a burner. So they actually visited my rental home because that’s the address listed in the license they got, and the tenants had to call me to tell me random people were showing up angry that they had voided tickets, so I had to tell them about the scam and that a police report was taken. They were like “you sound just like him!” I had to tell them it is not, and a police report was filed and I can meet them at the police station (they did not want to meet at a police station, which is super shady to me). So I don’t know how many people he scammed, but probably a lot, I had 3 strangers that showed up to my house. Many others probably went to the event and probably just saw that they were scammed. I always wondered if anyone else filed police reports against me, but being that I had a prior police report that showed I lost my wallet, I would be covered. I almost didn’t file a police report either, but good thing I did, b/c without it, I could have been held liable, since the victim would say I looked like the person. Awhile down the road, someone gave me the name of who it probably was, I never knew 100% who it was, but fairly sure b/c he does look sort of like me, and drives the same car, color, as the person who sold the bogus tickets.

  • Folks, remember this: it is perfectly legal, despite the preferences of big ticket companies like Ticketmaster that you not do so, to resell any ticket to any concert or event to a third party IF you are selling it AT OR BELOW face value. No matter what the company says. Simply go to the box office during business hours and conduct the transaction there after they have scanned and verified the legitimacy of the tickets – just be careful of a bait and switch where the tickets that were verified get switched out for identical looking fake tickets with slight of hand.
    Or, alternatively, tell the person you are buying something from to meet you at the local police station to conduct the sale. It’s the absolute 100% best way to spot a scam. If you are selling legitimate tickets, you should be happy to meet at a police station – it protects you, too, as the seller, from simply being robbed of your merchandise, and you shouldn’t mind if the dozens of security cameras and cops all see you. A scammer, though, will come up with 1,001 reasons to meet somewhere else – that’s the red flag to walk away. I’ve sold concert tickets, an iPad, and even a bike at the local police station, and the cops have often stated that they welcome such transactions to happen there. After all, it’s much easier than them having to do the paperwork of filing a report.

  • wandafish

    Wow. Those tickets and that print “confirmation” look so real. I am so sorry to hear this. You could’ve done all the things that some of the other commenters are suggesting, but I believe anyone can be scammed by this. Ticketmaster should do a better job of making sure their hard-copy tickets aren’t easily copied (and not having to hold a flame to it to find out).

  • I sell a lot of tickets — Nats and otherwise — on craigslist. You know how many idiots think I’m a scammer because I want to use PayPal (to save time)? They think hard copy tickets and cash protects them. LOL no. You want digital tickets and digital payment and you won’t get scammed.

  • to those advising buyers to verify tickets at the box office, verizon center won’t do it — not sure about other venues. just want to give you a heads-up.

  • Did they say that the tickets were outright fake or if the seller maybe had multiple ticket copies and sold them all. For an outright fake, he must have had access to Ticketmaster paper stock which means he is probably scalping people nightly.

    • Outright fake. Enough for the Verizon center to write out void on all of them.

      Update: Filed a police report. Detective on the phone this morning was interested in my story. Officer that filed this report with just now did not seem bothered by it at all. Didn’t ask much so I volunteered tons of info. He sort of wrote it down. Got a case number and a “have a nice day.” =/ And when I walked in, the officer had already taken two fraudulent ticket cases today.

  • Thank so for sharing! Unfortunately I saw this too late and the exact thing happened to me today. Different guy but same situation, beware and don’t buy tickets even if they are hard copies!

  • Ticketscamvictim, thanks for the PSA. Those fake tickets are pretty impressive — the only difference I notice between them and the real tickets is that there are several places where the print in the real tickets is superimposed on wording on the underlying card stock (like the black print superimposed over the red wording on the top line), and it’s not superimposed on the fakes.
    But you’d need to already have a legitimate ticket to be able to compare it that closely against a fake, and I don’t know whether there’s any variation among legit tickets in that way. Yikes.
    I’ve bought tickets for already-sold-out shows only twice — both in London, circa 2007-2009 — and this story makes me think I was really lucky not to have been ripped off on the one that was a transaction by mail. (The other was a friend of a friend who had an extra ticket.)

  • I have been fortunate to not be scammed for the few ticket purchases I’ve made through Craiglist – all for last minute football tickets. It’s too stressful to worry about, so now I only purchase through Ebay from sellers with excellent ratings. Sorry it happened to OP.

  • UPDATE: DC Police tweeted about their Exchange Points 10 hours ago, I assume after the second wave of Adele ticket scams. I really do believe it must have been because so many people filed police reports about fraudulent tickets. https://twitter.com/DCPoliceDept/status/786171391611588608
    — OP