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What is a Scalper?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term scalper has several definitions. It may apply to a day trader in the stock market who purchases stock and quickly sells it, usually within a matter of minutes, for small profits. The term scalper may also refer to anyone who purchases collectibles not to collect but to make money by selling them at a profit. Another form of scalper purchases hard to get items, like popular new toys released during the Christmas season, and then sells them at a much higher price.

Most commonly, people use the term scalper to describe people who purchase large blocks of tickets for sporting events, Broadway shows, or concert performances. They then resell these tickets, usually right in front of the venue where the event will occur. Prices of tickets sold by a scalper may have as much as a 100% markup, but people may have to use a scalper when they cannot get tickets by any other means.

In many states, the activities of the scalper are illegal, especially when he or she sells the tickets right outside the location of the event. On the other hand, purchasing tickets in advance and selling them from one’s home or place of business for a higher price is often not considered illegal.

One should be wary of the ticket scalper, since he or she may sell tickets that are not real. If one is desperate to attend an event, look for people who are selling an extra ticket or two at market value. Many people end up with an extra ticket by accident, and are willing to sell the ticket for its original price.

Also occasionally, predators will pose as ticket scalpers in order to lure people away from an event and rob or hurt them. One should never follow a scalper anywhere that takes one away from the public view. This is a dangerous practice that could get one hurt, especially if the fake scalper knows one is carrying a lot of cash to make a purchase.

Even though the actions of a scalper at the site of an event tend to be illegal, they are hard to enforce since so many people scalp tickets. Usually a scalper operates with nonchalance toward any state statutes forbidding scalping.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments
By strawCake — On Oct 31, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I see what you're saying. Scalpers are just using the rules of supply and demand to make a profit. However, it does seem sleazy to me too, and as the article said, in some places scalping tickets is straight out illegal. So there is that!

By JessicaLynn — On Oct 30, 2012

I have mixed feelings about scalpers who snap up products or tickets and then sell them for a huge markup. On the one hand, I think it's pretty smart and enterprising on the part of the scalper. On the other hand, it just seems kind of sleazy.

I was in Target awhile ago, and I saw someone purchase almost all of the "designer collection" that was on sale at that time. They were clearly planning on selling the clothes on Ebay later on. Meanwhile, there were actual customers that just wanted to purchase the clothes for themselves there, and there were none left for them.

By KaBoom — On Oct 30, 2012

@dautsun - I think most people who buy from scalpers are people who forgot to get their tickets or waited too long. A lot of really popular shows sell out, so sometimes the only option is to buy from a scalper if you want to go that badly.

By dautsun — On Oct 29, 2012

@popcorn - I don't think it's really dangerous to anything but your wallet to purchase tickets from a scalper. As long as you follow the advice in the article and don't follow the scalper to a secluded area, you should be fine.

Also, I've never heard of anyone getting arrested for scalping or buying a ticket from a scalper. So if you really want to purchase from a scalper, you're not in any real danger.

However, I would just recommend buying the tickets online ahead of time. You'll end up paying a lot less money that way.

By popcorn — On May 24, 2011

Has anyone ever purchased tickets off of a scalper? Would you recommend it, or do you think it is dangerous?

As far as the laws go, does the law only punish the ticket seller, or does the buyer get in trouble as well?

While I understand that in many places this practice is illegal, I sometimes just want to go to a show. I am willing to pay a higher price for better seats, and if I think it is worth it.

To be honest, there are those of us that don't want to wait in line for hours, for a small chance that we might get front row. I want the option to just buy it.

By animegal — On May 21, 2011

I don't see how standing out front of a venue and scalping concert tickets for $1000 is any different that utilizing e-auctions like E-bay to do the exact same thing.

I think the laws that ban ticket scalping are out of date and need to be redone because of the changes to technology. Either it should be completely illegal to resell tickets at a markup, or the law needs to wiped off the records.

I think once someone has purchased something they should be able to sell it for whatever they want. This is a free market economy after all.

By anon237 — On Apr 19, 2007

The article says "In many states, the activities of the scalper are illegal, especially when he or she sells the tickets right outside the location of the event." But that's not true and the word "activities" is vague. There are more errors but I'll just say that I feel like the tone of this article regarding ticket scalpers is unnesessarily negitive.

The truth is that Ticket Brokers and Ticket Scalpers are providing a service to millions nationwide. Simply put, if there wasn't a need then they wouldn't be there.

I'd like to see this article reviewed and re-written in a more objective manner. Thanks for your time!


Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia...
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