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Protect yourself online! Scammers are everywhere. Use COMMON SENSE and be SAFE when online. NEVER disclose private information to strangers. Sounds too good to be true? it probably is.

by Robert Gillis
published in the Foxboro Reporter, 1/2006 & 1/2007 and the Boston City Paper, 6/2006 & 1/2007.

Since eBay no longer allows this ad that I have posted for EIGHT YEARS, I invite you to read it here! (They won’t allow it because I’m not selling or buying anything). But since ticket fraud is rampant across eBay and Craigslist, if you are planning to buy tickets to the Super Bowl, PLEASE read this first! It’s all free and common sense and may save you a lot of money and heartache! I have no tickets, I don’t want tickets, I don’t want your money — just read this BEFORE you look for tickets online, please!

Avoid Superbowl Ticket Fraud — PLEASE READ THIS.


With the annual Super Bowl frenzy in progress, especially here in Foxboro, I would like to take this annual opportunity to warn you about rampant super bowl ticket-selling fraud on-line, especially on eBay, CraigsList and other online auctions.

(Note: Throughout this article, I will intentionally alternate between calling the game super bowl and superbowl to reach more people.)

While many online ticket vendors are reputable, many more are not. If you are planning on buying super bowl tickets on-line (for most people that will be eBay, craig’s list or another online auction site) please read the following and pass it along. Each year I receive several emails from grateful people who were ready to buy superbowl tickets from scammers until they read this — and they winded up saving thousands. I am not selling anything here — there is no secret here — this is just a request that you use common sense and learn how to spot a scam. Protect yourself, it’s free.

There are many superbowl ticket auctions that are scams. Here is how the scams work:

They will list an auction with a low starting bid and say to contact them for a “Buy it Now” price.

Some of the new scams will list a normal higher price but they will still ask for you to contact them before you bid.

Once you email them, they will email you back within minutes. Their demeanor is to rush the transaction.

The text is almost always in broken English or is filled with grammatical or spelling errors. Professional sellers are, well, professional.

They either happen to be out of the country on work, at school, or for medical reasons (such as surgery) or they are caring for a sick relative. It’s a lie.

The transaction will go through their distant cousin or brother.

They will ask you to send the money via some sort of wire transfer such as Western Union or MoneyGram — Remember: Any request for these types of services is a huge red flag. Don’t do it!

The scammer will claim that they are having a problem with their Pay Pal account or that they cannot access it. Or they will tell you they are in a country where they cannot use Pay Pal. They are lying. Pay Pal is accepted worldwide. So — AVOID SUCH SELLERS. You have money-back guarantees and other rights with Pay Pal and your credit card that you do not have with Western Union. INSIST on Pay Pal.


The scammer may send you a picture of the ticket if you ask for it and it may look legitimate. But — Look at the images of the tickets they provide. Look closely. In 2005, I saw some doctored fakes where the top section of the super bowl ticket number, say, section 331, seat 12, did not match the bottom of the ticket, say section 123, seat 12. Other fakes were the wrong color. Know what REAL tickets look like.

Be cautious with new eBay users. If an eBayer has been a member for a long time, you can feel a little more secure than someone who has been an eBay seller since two days ago. Be VERY suspicious of anyone with big game tickets who joined eBay very recently.

Also, look carefully at feedback. If the seller doesn’t have much feedback, think hard!

If the seller says they will contact eBay and have eBay send you verification — don’t believe it. eBay doesn’t do that.

Third Party: eBay DOES NOT EVER act as a third party in any of your auctions or transactions

Also–regarding eBay and Square Trade: Square trade is an optional mediation service eBay provides by which buyers and sellers can hopefully resolve a transaction and get bad feedback removed. Nothing more.

If the seller says that you are covered by eBay Standard Purchase Protection Program, please note that the MAXIMUM you can recover is $175, and non-eligible transactions include items paid for with cash or instant money transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. You are NOT covered when you use a wiring service.

Beware changes in terms: You see an ad where the user accepts Pay Pal. You win the auction and suddenly their Pay Pal isn’t working anymore, or they want you to pay by bank check or Western Union. DON’T DO IT. If the auction says they accept Pay Pal, and then suddenly they can’t, it is not your problem. Contact eBay and dispute the change in terms. Provide the auction number (top right corner of the auction), the item description, and eBay seller name, and any copies of email from the seller.

Do not ever be bullied or threatened by a seller. Example. You commit to buy the tickets through Pay Pal, which the seller said they accept. Then the seller changes the terms, and wants you to send payment by “Western Union” to his third cousin in Nigeria or something. You are wisely hesitant, and the seller threatens to demolish your feedback, report you to eBay and the police and God knows who else — IGNORE IT. If you have acted in good faith and the seller has change terms or is acting improperly, CONTACT EBAY immediately.

“Buy it Now” scams: If a seller has a “Buy it Now” price they need to use the “Buy it Now” feature on eBay and list the “Buy it Now” price. By using the eBay “Buy it Now”, feature, if a buyer is willing to meet the “Buy it Now” price BEFORE THE FIRST BID COMES IN, he clicks the “Buy it Now” button and commits to buying the item for the “Buy it Now” price and the auction ends. (Once the item has bids, the “Buy it Now” option disappears. Anything else is a back-door deal.

Remember: Transactions outside of eBay are not eligible for eBay services, including feedback, contact information requests, the eBay Standard Purchase Protection Program, the Item Not Received Process, and the Unpaid Item Process.

If you receive an email with a “Question from eBay member” in it, it may be legitimate. But scammers know how to make an email look like it’s coming from eBay, so do not click on the RESPOND NOW button inside the email — you might end up on a fake site that looks like eBay but is not. Rather, always open a new browser window, go to eBay, login in, and check your messages and respond that way.

Beware raffles and auctions for charity. I have seen listings where the seller allows you to buy chances for $5.00 with the promise that all entries will be placed into a hat, one winner gets the tickets and the money goes to the Cancer Society. I contacted this seller through email, curious if the tickets were for sale anyway. He/she replied, “Where are you located? I have sold over 100 numbers so far, but have been letting everyone know that I would sell them for $2500 right now.” Funny, that wasn’t mentioned in the ad. Also funny: The ad was removed the next day. Bottom line: eBay policy forbids raffles and reads as follows: “eBay does not permit listings that promote giveaways, random drawings, raffles, or prizes, because these promotions are highly regulated and may be unlawful in many states.”

Don’t deal with people outside the United States for Superbowl tickets. Why in the world would someone from Nigeria or France have prime seats to the super bowl?





Moral: Online auctions such as eBay can be a great way to get event tickets, and I have used such auctions in the past with success. But you must be cautious. Deal with reputable agents, not strangers. Don’t let the frenzy of the super bowl season overwhelm your judgment. Don’t be scammed. Use your common sense. Pass this along. Be safe.

Finally, I have received messages from people me asking whether I thought specific auctions or sales were legitimate, or if an escrow service was reliable, and so on. Besides the information above, I can’t say whether an auction is legitimate or not. I can’t vouch for any services or sellers. The information I’ve provided here is to help you make an informed choice. The rest is up to you. Be informed. Be safe.

Report any suspected fraud to eBay or CraigsList immediately.

Here’s a TEXTBOOK scammer fraud email I got; NONE of this is fictitious, and I even kept the misspellings and other errors as they were:

From: Edwin Jones

Sent: Sun, 6 Jan 2008 10:07 pm

Subject: Re: You’ve received a question about your eBay item, 2 SUPER BOWL TICKETS SUPERBOWL


First i want to tell you that the price is 5000$ for all both.Our transaction will be done thru ebay 100% safe and protected.The shipping cost is 25$.I will send you the tickets via UPS 1 Day Air after the payment is receive.For start the transaction send me this personal information(first and last name,address,city,state,zip code,username-so i can see your feedback).After you send me this information i will contact ebay and start the transaction.If you make the payment fast..i will send you the tickets in the same day so you can receive there as fast as possible.I don`t send the tickets until the payment is receive.I can finish the auction early if the payment is make.Right now i`m in italy but that is not a problem,you will meet with my uncle in the front of stadion Monday,the payment needs to be make before,i can`t use paypal in italy…but we will make the transaction thru ebay and you will be protected…i`m a protected seller.Send me fast your personal information so we can start now.You need to paid in advance 2500$ if you want them. Thank you and Happy New Year!!!

Why this is obvious fraud:

  • Didn’t even put the dollar sign in the right place.
  • Misspellings and grammar throughout.
  • Why is my eBay feedback relevant to this back-door deal?
  • Contact eBay and start the transaction? eBay doesn’t do that.
  • Wants to RUSH the transaction.
  • Delivery: In one paragraph there are three mentions of ticket delivery: He’ll send the tickets UPS 1 day, same day, or I meet his uncle in person? Which is it?
  • Which Monday?
  • He’s in Italy? How convenient. If I were making a $5000 deal I’d fly home, not send my uncle. BTW, for five large I wouldn’t charge shipping.
  • PayPal is WORLDWIDE. You CAN use it ANYWHERE.
  • How exactly am I protected again? And he’s a protected seller? Don’t know what that means?
  • Did I mention he’s been an eBay user for about two weeks?

At least he wished me a happy new year.

Here are some of the messages I have received in from eBay members in response to the “Beware Superbowl Ticket scams” ad. It makes me so happy that these folks were not scammed and can now help stop the fraudsters!

EBAY MEMBER: Thank you very much for the info. I live in New Orleans and expect the saints to make it and just a few minutes ago sent my info to a guy in London that was there on business and couldn’t go to the game and happened to have 5 tickets for $2800 and we were going to use Square Trade to do the deal according to him. Can’t wait until he emails me back now. After all that has happened here this would have surely put me over the top. I would have been out the $2800 not to mention the plane fare to UK and possibly bail money. I can’t thank you enough for slowing me down. God Bless.

EBAY MEMBER: thanks i too have been emailing EBay with obvious frauds-but are they too lazy to read the ads themselves? RIGHT NOW there are ads from the same person listing different states as their address and having contact me at blah-blah or how about the guy with 10 tickets?

EBAY MEMBER: Thanks i considered buying but will only buy from co. i know. thanks a million

EBAY MEMBER: I just wanted to say “Thank you” for putting this up. The Superbowl is several weeks away and there have been tons of fake sales up already.

EBAY MEMBER: i just wanted to say thanks for posting this i recently inquired about super bowl tickets and this is the email i received….Hi The price for both tickets is $1200 including shipping and insurance. The seats are located in Section 402 Row 15.I must tell you that I’m in EUROPE(London , UK) because i am deaf and I need to make a medical intervention here. I’ll be staying here for another 3 months(at least), this is why I’m selling the tickets for such a cheap price. I have the tickets in my hand ready for shipping. Shipping will be made via FedEx overnight delivery service. I usually use Pay pal but, because I have some problems with my account ,the best way for payment is wire transfer (Western Union) For both of us protection we will use eBay’s Purchase Protection Program service to handle this. They will act like a 3rd party in this deal. I will NOT be able to receive the payment until you get the tickets and confirm to eBay that they are o.K., if you are really interested, now all you

GILLIS: That’s also textbook! He just happens to be out of the country. And he’s having problems with Pay pal! And eBay purchase protection: If the seller says that you are covered by eBay Standard Purchase Protection Program, please note that the MAXIMUM you can recover is $175, and Non-eligible transactions include items paid for with cash or instant money transfer services such as Western Union or Money Gram.

EBAY MEMBER: You are the Man! Probably saved me 1400$. he had me going, pay pal? sure fine, great, and then it came time to do it, and he “started” having problems w\ PC, could only accept Western Union.

EBAY MEMBER: It is so funny that you posted this, because I “thought” I had bought 4 tickets yesterday..then I got curious. I have done a ton of business on ebay buying and selling so I know how things work. This person kep telling me he spoke to an “agent” and I was the winner of the bid..but never closed the auction and kept trying to send me a phony invoice to wire him money in England!! Did he think I was stupid?? I laughed out loud!! Thanks for your posting and GO PATS!!

EBAY MEMBER: Thank you so much for your article on Super Bowl scams. I narrowly avoided one earlier this week that had all the telltale signs outlined in your article. Fortunately I posted a question on eBay and a member sent me a note that the whole eBay connection the seller had e-mailed me was fraudulent and that eBay would never use Moneygram.

EBAY MEMBER: I encountered this guy on Craig’s list. Your description is his MO! “The price $ 700 USD / ticket. i have 4 tickets for sale , seats together. The tickets are in Category 1, Lower level, near 45 yards line. eBay will manage the finacial part of our deal.They are acting like a third party in this deal. You will have to send the payment to eBay that will hold the money until you will receive the confirmation, inspect it and agree to keep it. If for some reason you refuse the confirmation(no more than 3 days), you will get a 100% refund from eBay. The payment is required by eBay as a guarantee(the money will be held by eBay) and after the payment is received by eBay, they will contact me to process to change the confirmation from Superbowl Team in your anme and address. Anyway, if you want more details about this deal, please reply with the following information’s to start the transaction…”

EBAY MEMBER: I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for this wonderful post. Families are scammed out of a trip of a lifetime because of these frauds and I agree with 100% of your post. I have become a very wise Ebayer, but most newbies are vulnerable. Thanks again for your great work and God Bless You!!!

EBAY MEMBER: Everything seemed legit when I bought tickets last year. It was a scam. I lost out on thousands. Is it worth risking thousands of dollars to save maybe $500 by not going to a ticket broker? We all want great deals, but I can tell you from experience that people get burned on eBay every day. Make sure anything you pay for you use the credit card option on paypal. If you use your bank account and Paypal doesn’t find in your favor your bank will do nothing while your credit card will refund your money 99% of the time. BE CAREFUL on eBay. People lie about condition, authenticity, and everything you can imagine. There is a reason why you can get cheaper on eBay.

EBAY MEMBER: Thank you so much for this information. I actually had one of these “deals” offered while I was trying to buy tickets to the Broncos/Steelers game back in October. I immediately contacted ebay and turned them in; ebay responded and let me know that they immediately cancelled the listing. Again, thanks for the info…very well written and very informative. Carol

EBAY MEMBER: Thank you so much….. Responded to a ‘seller’ that asked that I contact his personal email and this was his response: >>> Thank you for being interested in purchasing my tickets .If you are really interested i`m willing to give you the Buy it now price ( $3450 for all 4 + 1 Parking Pass) .The tickets are located in SEC 139,ROW 52.I want to take this opportunity to assure you that this deal is 100% legitimate.I need this deal to be managed in a secure way, by eBay and I think you want that too. For that I will need your full info (SHIPPING ADDRESS & eBay ID) so I can contact them and inform them about our possible deal. After you’ll send me your info they’ll let you know more details about how is this deal going to work. < << Sounds, verbatim, like a scenario you mentioned in your email. I will not have further contact with this person – thanks to you! You may have saved me thousands!!!

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