WRIGLEY FIELD — Despite the club’s best efforts to crack down on counterfeit tickets, the Chicago Cubs have already seized hundreds of fakes in six postseason games.
There’s no duping the team, no matter how good the fake: As soon as the ticket barcode gets scanned, any counterfeits are immediately made apparent and voided, Cubs spokesman Julian Green said.
“There’s no checklist here: It’s either real or it’s not,” Green said Monday. Already, Green said a couple hundred fakes have been seized.
The Cubs have warned fans to avoid scalpers on the street and resale sites like Craigslist, directing them instead to the affiliated Stubhub for secondhand buys.
There’s been no slowdown in counterfeiting compared to the 2015 postseason, although Green said he’s been surprised by the lengths some scammers will go to in recreating postseason tickets.
At the same time, “we are being amazed by the level of inept work that’s being put into some of these tickets and designs,” Green said. “It’s just unfathomable.”
Swept up in the high-stakes game of snagging a seat in Wrigley as the Cubs try to win it all, many fans fail to inspect the scalped tickets, meaning obvious fakes are getting sold as easily as the lookalikes, Green said.
If tickets are counterfeit, stolen or lost, there’s no getting them back, Green said. That’s another reason fans are advised not to take post photos of their coveted tickets online — it’s too easy for scammers to lift images of the barcodes and duplicate them, putting a legitimate ticket at risk.
The Cubs don’t feel any need to train staffers to recognize fakes, thanks to modern mechanisms like the handheld scanners that catch counterfeits without any effort from the ticket takers.
“The onus is not on us,” Green said. “The onus is on the consumer, the fans that really need to do their homework and check their sources before they make the purchase.”
There’s no fool-proof checklist for figuring out if a ticket sold through unofficial sources is real — scammers are “always trying to beat the game or beat the system” with new methods, Green said.
“When you’re going to a used car lot and buying a lemon, you go through all these checklists to make sure you’re getting a good deal on a car, but this isn’t that,” Green said. “Just go to the right places to buy the tickets and you’ll be safe with that.”
Still, there are a few common things the Cubs have seen so far this postseason that mark the counterfeit tickets as obvious fakes:
1. A summer postseason?: While it might be an unseasonably warm October, tickets dated July 15 or other erroneous dates are clearly not valid. Fans have also offered up postseason tickets that are designed like tickets from the regular season but missing any postseason designation.
“It suggests folks are so driven by impulse to try to get a coveted ticket that they’re not making sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed,” Green said.
2. Dismal design: Several tickets — including the two that The Athletic reporter Scott Powers shelled out $400 for on Sunday — have marks where perforations are supposed to be, but aren’t actually perforated. Others have the distinct look of being pasted together from bits of real tickets — they have sections that are printed crooked or portions that appear highly pixelated. The backs of many of the tickets have made-up terms and conditions printed in a different font and with varying language.
Unlike the rest of the ticket, the commissioner's signature and "Home Game" portion of this ticket are highly pixelated, marking it as a fake. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
Voided tickets that are printed as full pieces of paper from personal computers — as opposed to the classic, 2-inch-by-5½-inch tickets that look like they come from a box office — have also had some glaring errors. Some print with text lines overlapping in a mumbo-jumbo mix. Others have the wrong colors, with the blue circle around the Cubs C appearing navy blue or black.
Examples of fake Cubs tickets have messily printed text that mark them as counterfeit. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
3. Bad barcode: Some fake tickets printed on full sheets of paper (like those that would be bought online) have blurry barcodes that could barely be scanned, even if they were legitimate. Others are copied and pasted numerous times on tickets with different seat numbers — if you’re buying in a pair, make sure the barcode numbers are different, Green said.
Blurry barcodes and a wrong date mark this ticket — seized during the postseason — as a clear fake. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
4. Logo no-go: Real tickets will always have a Major League Baseball hologram, which is hard to mimic when printing a fake ticket. The MLB logo is also on the back of real tickets, but frequently missing from the fakes.
Others have backs that use multiple different fonts or have faked terms and conditions.
The backs of these fake Cubs tickets give them away. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
5. Here's your receipt: Some fans have presented emailed receipts from Stubhub, believing them to be the actual tickets. Sadly, that’s not the case — real tickets will have some kind of barcode for the club to scan. (Also, for the record, if you’re getting a ticket from a “J. Mullarkey,” chances are, it’s malarkey.)
A ticket receipt from "J. Mullarkey" was resold to a fan as a ticket, but rejected at the gate. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
With playoff tickets reselling for as high as $7,500 even in the National League Division Series, “it suggests to criminal that there is tremendous value to be made,” Green said. “They’re working very hard to try to beat the system.”
But the risk, Green said, is not worth the highly unlikely reward.
The National League Championship Series will resume in Los Angeles on Tuesday, as the Cubs face the Dodgers in the best-of-seven series currently tied 1-1. If neither team clinches in Game 5 on Thursday, the series will return Saturday to Wrigley Field for Game 6.
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