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Ticket Scam Resource Center

Glossary

See this glossary of terms used by con artists.

It is helpful for ticket buyers to be introduced to the most basic workings of a con in order to recognize one when it is attempted. Some ticket scams evolved from older con games. The word con is used today as an actual English word, but is short for confidence, in the sense that a con artist attempts to gain the confidence of a potential victim. Con is used as a verb (a bad person cons a victim) or as a noun (a bad person performs a con). A con is a situation in which a victim is fooled into giving money (or some other product or service) to the con artist, and the victim does not receive expected money or goods in return. The con may involve lying, cheating at a game, counterfeit or other false representation, misdirection, exaggerations, etc. Typically, we think of cons as non-violent, although a failed con could escalate, especially if the intended victim gets angry.

The point of a con is to gain the trust (confidence) of a mark in a situation in which trust is not automatic. There's a reason that trust is not automatic; it's a situation where a dishonest grifter has the advantage. Even though the mark doesn't expect a con, the mark knows, at least subconsciously, that there is no automatic trust. Certainly, there are insider cons, in which a trusted associate turns bad. We hear about respected financial advisors who sell bad investments, but this often happens after years of legitimate service. A victim should not feel foolish when cheated by legitimately trusted friends. But usually with cons, strangers are involved and there is no initial trust. Average citizens should remember that they don't owe trust to strangers. When a stranger wants something from you, especially large sums of money, you are not being bad when you withhold trust, even when the stranger claims to have hurt feelings.

A con can take many forms. A con may take place over days or months, or it may be over with in seconds. The quicker cons are referred to as short cons. This web site is concerned with ticket scams, and these are not always short cons. You buy a counterfeit ticket from a scalper on a street, and the scam is complete. Or maybe, you participate in an online auction over a period of days.

Ticket scams can be inside jobs. Perhaps a co-worker sells you a "great" ticket to a concert, and you find out later that the seat is not so great. The seller claims ignorance or good faith, i.e., maybe the seller really thought that the seat was a good seat. Maybe the seller was conned by another, original ticket holder. More commonly, ticket scams, and cons in general, are perpetrated by strangers who are never seen again.

A con starts with the approach. Con artists may approach victims, or they may set themselves up in places where victims can approach them. For example, a scalper may advertise tickets for sale in a newspaper, or may wait on a street corner for potential buyers. If you are approached by a stranger with something you just can't live without, you should wonder how you've lived without it up to now. If you feel yourself drawn to an unexpected offer, you should wonder why you didn't want the thing in the first place. Of course, it's no surprise to be approached by strangers outside concert arenas.

Con artists may profile their victims. Middle aged men are generally more street smart (and avoided by con artists) than giggly teen fans outside a concert arena. The elderly are generally more susceptible to sympathetic approaches, and are simply not as quick witted as they once might have been.

If you are asked for money without a quick and full completion of the deal, you should be suspicious. For example, if you are asked for earnest money to show your own good faith, you should wonder what guarantee you have of the other's good faith. You were minding your own business when a stranger offered free stuff, but then wants YOU to pay for your own good faith?

Let's say you find an offer that sounds interesting, but what starts out as a small and simple transaction suddenly grows in price and complexity. Additional products suddenly appear - buy twelve for the price of ten! Another buyer appears and bids against you. A passerby, possibly a lawyer or other respected person, appears to confirm the great deal that you'll get if you just fork over the money. The seller rattles off stories of other satisfied customers, and a satisfied customer might even appear to confirm the stories. Distractions occur, such as noises or other people. Just when it looks bad to you, the stranger gives something up, maybe a few dollars, to suck you back in.

Consider your level of trust. In an established business place, such as a restaurant, the products and prices are laid out. There isn't much room for confusion. You pay a couple bucks, you get a burger and a drink, and if the food is cold, you complain. You trust the sellers because they work under a known identity, such as a restaurant name. But on the street, with products you never knew you wanted, the scalper you never met must acquire your trust on the fly. When you have doubts, your attention is distracted to other things, and you are encouraged to seal the deal before it's "too late". When is it ever too late to buy that burger? Well, never; if you don't buy the burger today, they'll make one for you tomorrow. But if your new best friend scalper can't promise you the same deal after five minutes, what does that say about your friendship?

If the seller's eyes are on the lookout for anything other than you, be wary. Maybe the seller is worried about the police, or is signaling to others to create a distraction.

At auctions, including eBay, the notion of a shill is of great concern. A seller (or an associate of the seller) may bid against legitimate buyers to drive up the sale price. This is risky, as the seller may inadvertently win the auction, but the item can always be resold. Have no doubt that this is a problem at online auctions, although shill bidders are occasionally caught. For the most part, all the auction service can do is ban the shill. Many traditional short cons utilize shills who are accomplices to the main perpetrators.

Con artists booster (a shill), gee, grifter, gun (gun moll), hustler, scalper, shill, tout.
In this case, gun refers to the Yiddish word for thief (gonif). A moll is a woman.
Victims modern or common - chump, mark, vic (short for victim), rube, sucker.
archaic or uncommon - apple, addict, Bates, John Bates, Mr. Bates, cake eater, clem, fish, huckleberry, mooch, Winchell, yap.
   
Camera Hugger Tourist
Come-On An offer of an apparent advantage for a mark, offered by the grifter, in an attempt to suck the mark in.
Cool Out Pacify a mark after the sting.
Fan Short for "fanatic", and it's fanaticism that makes fans vulnerable to scams.
Fraud This web site usually refers to "fraud" as a more general term than "scam". Fraud in the ticketing industry includes venue employees taking bribes from brokers in return for special access to tickets. This doesn't cost consumers money, so it isn't considered a scam, but it is illegal.
Maghas Nigerian word for sucker popularized by the Nigerian Letter scams that offer money in overseas accounts after a payment by the mark.
Mark A potential victim, listed separately because the term is common and used frequently on this page. In the past, potential easy victims, or people carrying large amounts of cash, were surreptitiously marked at carnivals with chalk for recognition by other grifters.
Phishing An email con that attempts to fool a mark into visiting a counterfeit web site to enter personal information, thinking that the web site is a legitimate banking or other web site.
Primary market Venues and ticketing agencies such as TicketMaster sell tickets directly to consumers at face value (plus handling fees), and that's the primary market for tickets. See "secondary market".
Scalper  American slang term for an individual reseller of a small number of tickets.
Scam A transaction in which money is paid, but the expected goods and services are not fully received. If your tickets are never delivered, that's a scam. If you get the tickets, but they're the wrong tickets, that might be a scam, depending on how you define "wrong". Price gouging is not scamming; if the price is too high then don't pay it, and if you pay the price and get the goods, stop complaining. This web site does not consider unfair access to tickets to be a scam. See "fraud".
Secondary market Some tickets are resold outside of the primary market, such as through brokers and scalpers. This is the secondary market, and usually involves price markups. See "primary market".
Shill A partner in a con game, either unseen by the mark or becoming involved after the original approach. The mark may never realize that the shill is in on the con.
Sting The point in a con when the money is taken from the victim.
Tout With respect to tickets, the British slang term for "scalper".