How can I spot fake concert tickets?

The best way to avoid counterfeit concert tickets is to buy them directly from the source, such as Ticketmaster, the promoter, the artist or the venue. Buying tickets from a broker, scalper, or from online classifieds is very risky.

But if you do buy a ticket from someone other than the source there are tests you can do to gauge authenticity. If the show is sold out, the odds increase that tickets sold by scalpers are not legitimate. If you buy from a friend you trust, find out if he or she purchased it directly from a legitimate source.

Common Sense Test

Study the ticket carefully, observing the quality of the ticket, the images and the printing. If it looks cheaply made, blurry or off-balance, chances increase that the ticket is fake. If you see any typos, incorrect information, grammatical or punctuation errors, then you are likely looking at a fraud. Sloppiness is a strong indicator of fraud. Tickets for big events tend to be printed with full resolution and look highly professional with no errors. Find out if the seller has a specific hologram or watermark that is embedded onto the ticket.

Black Light Test

Get a small pocket black light and hold it up to the back of the ticket. If the seller is Ticketmaster there should be logos all over the back. A black light makes certain materials appear to glow in the dark. Look for sophisticated watermarks, which are meant to be inconspicuous in normal light but obvious under certain lighting conditions. Study the complexity of the artwork to judge if the ticket looks professional or thrown together. Black lights are often used in criminal investigations because they make certain materials stand out by applying near-ultraviolet light.


Study the bar code on a ticket and ask yourself if it looks like an authentic bar code. If the lines are distinct and not smeared, the odds increase it is authentic, although Ticketmaster warns on its website there is no sure way to avoid fake tickets that are not bought from the source. Many modern tickets are scanned at the entrance to instantly make sure they are legitimate. When you purchase a ticket from Ticketmaster, the original barcode is cancelled and replaced by a new one. Ticketmaster warns on its website that other websites that sell tickets might contain exceptions to guarantees in fine print.