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
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
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
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,
In this case, gun refers to the Yiddish word for thief (gonif). A moll is a
modern or common - chump, mark, vic (short for victim), rube,
archaic or uncommon - apple, addict, Bates, John Bates, Mr. Bates, cake eater,
clem, fish, huckleberry, mooch, Winchell, yap.
| Camera Hugger
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.
Short for "fanatic", and it's fanaticism that makes fans vulnerable
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.
Nigerian word for sucker popularized by the Nigerian Letter
scams that offer money in overseas accounts after a payment by the 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.
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".
American slang term for an individual reseller of a small
number of tickets.
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".
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.
The point in a con when the money is taken from the victim.
With respect to tickets, the British slang term for "scalper".