The mating call of the Comic-Con scammer

9 MAY 2015

A lot of people who don't know any better think going to Comic-Con is like going to a stadium show; they can just show up in the vicinity and a sketchy-looking guy in sunglasses will be waving physical badges over his head and calling out to the crowd. And they believe that the digital equivalent of those people can be found on Craigslist.

It doesn't work like that, of course. Badges have names and days printed on them, and must be picked up with a photo ID. Sometimes guards stop you and ask to see your ID to make sure it matches the name on your badge. But there's no quick way to know this if you've never been to SDCC, so Craigslist keeps filling up with offers - and people keep answering them.

Here's a rogue's gallery of scammers and the lines they'll feed you.

I got a full Preview Night badge but now I can't go this year, so I have to sell my badge. '

Anyone can request a badge refund up until 15 June. And if they're so busy, overworked or out of town, why are they able to go retrieve the badge in person?

I just need your name and address and I can transfer the badge to you.

CCI doesn't transfer badges. Any badges bought will be waiting under the name of the person who bought them, and only a photo ID with that name will work.

I'll just give you the name it's under and you can say you're me.

See above. Photo ID is required.

As soon you pay, I'll mail out the badge.

No one gets an advance badge. Everyone has to pick them up on site. Anyone who pretends to already have a badge in their possession - and I've seen some laughable fakes already on Craigslist - is a vile liar.

I have 5 one-day badges, 3 two-day badges, 4 weekend badges, and 2 four-day badges.

No one refers to a "two-day badge" or "weekend badge." They're just trying to sound legit by presenting several options.

This isn't an attendee badge, it's a special industry all-access badge because my friend works in the industry. You just have to go to this special guest badge desk and pick it up.

You will see some true guest badge offers online, so this one is dicey. However, because it's so hard to disprove until you're actually there in the convention center lobby, being told that no, there is no badge waiting for your name, a lot of scammers tell this story. If you do find someone who seems to be the real deal, check him or her out as deeply as you can.

(And for a different kind of scam: those of you who are going the Airbnb route know not to make any wire transfers, right?)

If you are desperately seeking a badge to San Diego Comic-Con right now, my heart goes out to you - I understand how panicked you might feel as we get closer and closer. And let me be clear, it's not just neophytes who are looking to get a badge through dodgy means. I know a family who got badges for both parents and one child, while their 14 year old is out in the cold. They are frantic to get him even a Sunday badge. Given the badge sale logistics, it's very common to see families and groups of friends fractured in this way. (Including my best friend and I.)

There's no easy answer, and it's not surprising that someone might feel compelled to roll the dice and trust one of these Craigslist sellers. But more often than not, it just results in more heartbreak - so please, please, be careful. Don't do anything to jeopardize your chances at attending next year and use your common sense. Missing Comic-Con is definitely going to sting - but losing a thousand dollars and missing Comic-Con anyway will feel far, far worse.


  1. For the family with the 14 year old, have them contact CCI directly. It's obviously not guaranteed, but I know that CCI does try to help out people in these kinds of situations. Last year they did so for a few families 'behind the scenes'. Regardless, it doesn't hurt to politely ask for help.

    1. I'll have them ask - though I figure CCI is going to be inundated with requests like this.

  2. Hi Valerie. Here's a stupid yet true story: last year, as I was walking to NerdHQ, a guy literally gets in my face and asks, "Do you have a Comic con badge?" I ignored him and continued walking. He asks again more aggressively. I combined all the high school French and Spanish I could muster and told that I wasn't interested. He proceeds to give me in French some of the lines you mentioned above. I kept walking and he got the hint. So, the grifters are there in person. Please everyone be careful!

    1. Good story. These people are so obnoxious.
      I'm still bummed you didn't get a badge. I hope you're going to NYCC.

    2. Yeah, I'm hoping to go to NYCC. But I have friends who are having weddings in October in different parts of the country. So it's going to be a cash flow issue as well as a vacation days issue.

  3. A couple of years ago, a man with two children in tow, approached me with an offer to pay if he can make copies of my badge. I forget how much he offered me. My response was an instant "no". Not only do I not want to risk my badge status, but the more there are people getting into SDCC with bogus badges, the longer the lines get. I wouldn't be surprised if there are people with phony badges in there. NYCC badges have RFID tech in them and you have to scan yourself in as you enter or leave. I wonder if SDCC would ever do that.

    1. Thanks for sharing that story. I shudder to think of someone granting his request.

      I don't know if CCI would do that, given how change-resistant they are. (And when they do implement something new, it's something like their Hall H wristbands.) But it's a good idea.