This is the story about the time my friends and I planned an impromptu trip to Chicago, got sold fake Bears tickets off Craigslist for the Texans/Bears game, my revenge, and my appearance on the Chicago CBS Local News…
If you ever buy tickets to anything online, it’s worth a read.
It’s long. That’s what she said.
My best friend Dan’s birthday is November 10. His brother, Matt, goes to school in Chicago. I’m a diehard Texans fan. Dan’s a diehard Bears fan. Our mutual good friend, Stephen (also a Texans fan), was in Chicago for work with a hotel room right in downtown Chicago. The stars were aligned.
November 11, 2012 – Houston Texans @ Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football
Late October, we set out on Craigslist to look for tickets. I came across this ad (I’d link it, but it’s since been taken down):
4 tickets, Section 233, Row 10 – $200 each
Perfect… About $75 over face value, not cheap enough to be too fishy but still low enough to be a solid deal for a primetime Sunday Night Football game. I contacted the ad, and within minutes, received an e-mail from email@example.com asking for my phone number. She has her ‘boyfriend’ immediately text me from this number 708-252-5970. I ask for pictures of the tickets, ask if they are real, and if he has a receipt. He replies back “Yes” to all accounts. I’d upload a screenshot of the texts but I’ve recently upgraded cell phones (this will actually be a blogpost of it’s own. iPhone 4s to Galaxy S3 to LG Optimus G to iPhone 5 without paying a dime off Craigslist. In fact, I made money). These are the pictures he sends me. From what I can tell and the way he’s talking to me, they look real as hell. I’m also probably a bit blinded by the thought of this entire fun trip and going to the game.
So, I’m forwarding all of this to my buddies. We’re chatting and pretty much confirm with each other that these are real. Since Matt is in Chicago, we planned for him to meet up with the guy. The next day, he meets the guy at a Starbucks. Says he was real nice and everything seemed legit. He hands over the $800 cash, and the guy doesn’t even count the money and leaves. That’s the first sign of something shady. Matt takes a picture of the tickets in his possession and sends them to all of us:
I’ll be honest, at this point we were all celebrating the great deal we got on Bears/Texans tickets and were pumped about the trip for Dan’s birthday. We confirmed the correct date, time, location, and all those little details you would normally look for on a ticket.The little ridges being on all 4 sides of the tickets was a bit fishy to me, but I talked myself out of it. Then, I noticed the ‘zeros’ looked very cartoon-ish. It was like everything was just printed in Arial Font. So, now I decide to do a little more research in hopes of calming my nerves. I come across the official Chicago Bears forum with a fan selling his real tickets to an old Bears game, thinking this would be great to use as comparison to our tickets.
Notice the ridges are only on the ends, where a normal ticket is ripped from the others. That’s tell #1. Tell #2 is the zeros. See how the zeros look like real numbers, and not just some cartoonish font. They have the diagonal line across them like you’d see on a scoreboard. Tell #3 is the phone number on the receipt doesn’t match the phone number that was texting me, but I didn’t think much of this at the time. At this point, I’m about 90% sure we just purchased fake tickets… but I tried to convince myself, “Maybe Ticketmaster just changed their fonts/design?”
I pick up my phone and take a look at the text messages again. For whatever reason, I decide to Google the phone number, 708-252-5970, and come across this excerpt from the top website result. My heart sinks.
I am now 100% certain these tickets are fake. I’m furious… for those of you who don’t know me, I research the SHIT out of anything and everything I purchase. I find great deals, I don’t get scammed out of great deals. My friends ask me to help find them deals, and I take pride in this. I had pictures, receipts, text messages, phone calls, e-mails… everything seemed so right about this transaction. I just got my friends and myself screwed out of $800 cash. That was the worst part. My best friend’s birthday… the trip of a lifetime… and we were out eight-hundred dollars. I felt awful.
I fill the guys in on everything. We’re all devastated. My friend Stephen actually emails the SAME craigslist ad, asking if the tickets were still available. Guess what? Immediate e-mail from the SAME firstname.lastname@example.org asking for his phone number. Then, immediate text from the SAME phone number 708-252-5970 with the SAME pictures of the SAME tickets and SAME receipt he sent me saying the tickets were STILL available. Now, I’m just pissed off. I tell my friends “Don’t worry, I’m gonna get this son of a bitch. Don’t do anything else. Just give me some time.”
At this point, I start researching anywhere and everywhere on who to get in touch with for such scams. I love internet forums, so I post all over the place (Chicago City Data Forum, Reddit advice, etc…) and get tremendous help and support from people online. Ironically enough, I get the most overwhelming responses from the Slickdeals.net forum called The Lounge where anyone can go to post about anything. If you don’t know what Slickdeals is, you need to get with it. Here is my desperate post to the community there: (sorry Stephen, I took credit for sending the fake follow-up e-mail)
Seriously, the CBS Private Investigative Team was a brilliant piece of advice. Remember Marvin Zindler in Houston (R.I.P.) “Slime In The Ice Machine!” Well, this was like that, but in Chicago… and about real crimes.
I found their contact information on their website, put together my e-mail full with screenshots, proof, and evidence. (Yes, I tried going through the Chicago PD website but let’s be honest, they have real crimes to deal with in that city… no offense)
I also filed a complaint on the other recommendation of http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx where online scams can officially be reported. They assign a PI or Detective to work with you.
I’ll be honest. I really didn’t think anything would come of either of these inquiries. Well, the very next day, I get e-mails from CBS 2 Chicago News’ Brad Edwards AND a private detective from the ic3.gov website. Amazing. I let my friends know, and we are laughing hysterically that I’m actually going to take down this scumbag who sold us fake tickets. Nobody scams me and gets away with it… nobody.
I fill CBS and the detective in on EVERY LITTLE DETAIL. The detective is part of the Chicago PD, so I was unsure of how fast she was going to act. Brad, on the other hand, I knew wanted to make a story out of this. It would make for great late night local news at the very least. Over the next 2 days, the detective goes M.I.A. because this so happened to have occurred right in the middle of the Presidential Election. I mean, I guess I can understand her wanting to work on the US Presidency over my story… Brad was quick to respond to my texts and e-mails. He was on my side. He was fighting for Stephen, Dan, Matt, and me. Chicago CBS 2 Investigative Team FTW!
That Thursday, Brad got in touch with the the Sheriff of Cook County in Chicago, Tom Dart. They were going to setup a sting operation to take down this trash man selling fake Bears tickets. They asked for all of my evidence. The e-mails from Brittany, the texts from the phone number, the images of the tickets and the receipt… everything. I receive a text from Brad a few hours later. “The sting is happening right now. We are about to arrest this guy.”
I literally cannot believe it. There’s no way he got all of this done so quickly. I’m calling my friends, we’re celebrating, all still in disbelief. We still aren’t 100% this d-bag got arrested, but why would Brad lie? He tells me they want to do a piece on it. He wants to know when I’ll be in Chicago for an on-camera interview for CBS 2. Now, my paranoid-self is wondering if this is all some kind of weird ploy. Am I about to somehow get scammed again and beat up by some thugs? I’m questioning the safety of the city of Chicago. I’m questioning humanity.
It’s now Friday, November 9. Dan and I arrive in Chicago and meet up with Stephen and Matt. Brad texted me earlier to arrange a meeting at our hotel. Kind of weird… but whatever. We get to the hotel (thanks again, Stephen!), and Brad calls me. He’s outside. I’m wearing my Arian Foster Texans jersey (I was that obnoxious fan in the Chicago airport and streets) and I introduce myself and everyone to Brad. His cameraman is with him and the CBS 2 van is there with a production light and everything. This was legit. I wasn’t getting beaten up by a bunch of fake ticket selling thugs.
Brad tells me to take the jersey off (this jersey is actually another blogpost I’ll do. Fake ‘authentic’ jersey from China. You know, the ones with stitched letters/numbers that cost $250 in the states. Well, my identity may or may not have gotten stolen). I am in Chicago after all. His thought process was to milk this story as a sad story about a group of guys traveling across the country who got scammed out of $800 and were in need of tickets for the big game. All 100% truth. I oblige and become a Bears fan for the next 15 minutes for the camera. Maybe the Chicago Bears office will see it or some warm-hearted civilian with season tickets will see it and give us free tickets. It’s more likely if I portray myself as a Bears fan. Brilliant.
3-2-1…Action! Camera starts rolling, and Brad begins the interview. I’m actually a bit paranoid of even showing myself on camera. I was hoping for a dark room, with one of those fake deep voices to hide my identity. Nope, here I am out in the open on the streets of Chicago with a bright light being shined on me basically admitting that I was the guy who took down this assclown who could be a part of some organized fake ticket crime business. (Also, here I am blogging about it for all to see). Oh well. I make horrible eye contact with Brad throughout the interview (something I’ve been trying to work on, actually). We get everyone in on the shot at the very end and it makes for a nice piece of local news. Sorry, it won’t let me embed the video but here’s the link for you to watch.
Later that evening, I get this article sent to me from Brad Edwards (CBS 2) seen here.
“William Howard, a 44-time arrestee, was expected in bond court Saturday.”
FORTY-FOUR TIMES? WTF? You are trash. You are the scum of the earth. At 50, do you just get banished from society? How is that even possible?
My friends and I were actually so happy that justice was served, the money really wasn’t a big issue. If you would’ve asked me for $200 back OR justice, I would’ve said justice. I’m glad we got this guy arrested and made his life a living hell for the 45th time. I’m proud of the research put in and the satisfaction that came of it.
Problem was, we were still ticketless. The Bears didn’t see it. Some good samaritan with season tickets didn’t see it. So, we went on StubHub and used their 100% Fan Protection and purchased similar seats for $300 each. I know, $500 is A LOT to spend on a football game, but when we got to the stadium, it was ALL worth it in the end. The trip to Chicago was incredible. Deep dish pizza, Chicago hot dogs, sight-seeing, Bulls game, my Texas A&M Aggies beating #1 Alabama on the road, and my Houston Texans beating the Bears on primetime Sunday Night Football. Seriously… amazing weekend. Dan’s Birthday was a tremendous success (minus his Bears sucking).