Watch Out for These Inauguration Scams

Fraudsters are offering fake and overpriced tickets.

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After hearing about a friend who got tricked into thinking a letter in the mail was an Inauguration Day ticket, I discovered a variety of Jan. 20-related scams. First, beware of the fake tickets. The Inaugural Committee has warned consumers against buying tickets from third-party sellers. Since the tickets, which are free and handed out by members of Congress, require in-person pick-up close to the date of the Inauguration, anyone claiming to have tickets to sell is not telling the truth, the committee says. "We urge the public to view any offers of tickets for sale with great skepticism," says staff director Howard Gantman. Websites including eBay and StubHub have officially banned the sale of tickets.

While scalped tickets for ice hockey and other sports games are easy to find in Washington, they aren't a reliable option for Inauguration day, warns the Better Business Bureau. Scalpers may not be able to get enough tickets to sale, and lawmakers are also considering whether to make the act illegal.

Other scams include:

  • Overpriced hotel deals. Travel guru Peter Greenberg says he's saw a $70,000 package for a room, champagne and a limo -- but no tickets to any Inauguration-related event.
    • Letters that say "you've been selected." High school students were the target of fraudsters who told them they'd been selected to represent their state, if only they paid a certain amount of money. Of course, even if they paid the money, they still didn't receive any Inaugural tickets.
      • Telemarketers. As far away as the Caribbean, telemarketers have been selling alleged Inaugural tickets to anyone who will pay $99 or more. Just remember: The tickets are free, given away by lawmakers. Be suspicious of anyone who tries to sell them to you.
      • And, of course, think twice before purchasing Obama memorabilia. The Better Business Bureau warns that the only value it holds is of the sentimental variety.