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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
St. Louis, MO
March Madness Scams Include Fake Ticket Offers, Hotel Packages, Counterfeit Merchandise, BBB Warns
BBB is alerting consumers to a variety of scams that arise when an event like the NCAA Basketball Tournament comes to town.
March 20, 2014

basketball playersSt. Louis, Mo., March 21, 2014 – With Saint Louis University’s basketball team making it to the NCAA Tournament and with regional games in St. Louis, basketball fever can push up ticket prices in the secondary market. Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that publicity about the games is likely to breed scams as well.

“Major sporting events like the NCAA tournament almost always inspire scammers to capitalize on the scarcity of tickets and fans’ desire to snap up souvenirs or team jerseys,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “BBB advises fans to check out offers with BBB before plunking down money or giving credit card numbers.”

While counterfeit items may seem like a good deal, they are actually stolen goods. If you love your team, don’t buy a hat or jersey from someone who has stolen the team’s name and logo for their own profit. Many counterfeit items are more cheaply made than genuine merchandise, which means they may not last as long as the real thing.

Buying counterfeit memorabilia online poses even more potential problems. Some websites don’t even have merchandise to sell. They just want your credit card number and personal information so they can steal your identity or drain your bank account. The best way to ensure you are getting official sports gear is to buy directly from the team or league websites, from official vendors at the stadium or from other trusted stores.

Craigslist has thousands of sports tickets listed, but the site offers no guarantees, and sellers don’t have to provide identification to list tickets. If you decide to try buying a ticket outside the event, remember that there are no refunds or guarantees there, either.

Official NCAA ticket information is available at http://www.ncaa.com/tickets.

BBB’s website lists reputable, secondary market ticket firms that provide buyer protections, including money-back guarantees if tickets are fake.
On some sites, sellers also must provide credit card numbers so the site can charge sellers for the cost of replacement tickets if they sell fake tickets. Before you buy, check out a seller’s BBB Business Review, which includes any complaints filed against the business and how the firm handled them.

Lodging scams also can occur during events like the NCAA Tournament. Scammers may lure people by advertising low prices – or they may charge a premium by claiming that the hotel is close to the arena when it isn’t. Others may offer tickets with the hotel room, but you have little or no way of verifying whether the tickets are real.

BBB advises fans to ask lots of questions and be wary of any offer that requires wiring money. When you send money by wire, it is almost impossible to get it back or to trace the recipient, who may be overseas.
 
The following are some BBB tips for avoiding scams connected to special events:

  • Read ads carefully to understand what is being offered and what the price will be.
  • Ask the seller where he or she is located and how he or she may be contacted after the sale. If the seller is evasive, don’t pursue the offer.
  • When booking hotels, ask for the name, address and phone number of the hotel where the room is located, and call the hotel to verify that the room actually exists. Check the hotel’s website or a reputable travel site to be sure that the location is convenient for getting to and from the arena.
  • Be wary of ads that pile on incentives to make the package look better. Often the items – such as lanyards, T-shirts or other trinkets – have limited value.
  • Use a credit card. A credit card company can assist you with obtaining a refund if the offer turns out to be fraudulent.
  • Do your research.  A variety of travel guidebooks and online reviews address services and amenities at hotels and motels. 
  • Make sure you get a confirmation number when reserving a room.  Also, make sure you know check-in and check-out times. Understand what type of room you are reserving (smoking/nonsmoking, queen or double beds, regular room or suite, etc.)
  • If you have any concern about the quality of a motel or hotel, ask to inspect your room before moving in. You have a better chance to get satisfaction from staff or management if you have not already accepted your room. 

Before you do business with a charity or company, check its BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.