Most of us know buying sports tickets from a scalper on the street or team merchandise from the back of a truck is a dicey move. More often than not, these last-minute, back alley deals are scams that leave buyers with counterfeit goods. Fewer sports fans, however, are savvy to the more subtle scams out there—especially those that become more prevalent as Super Bowl Sunday nears.
Below are four scams football fans who are hoping to get in on last-minute Super Bowl action should watch out for this weekend:
Fake Ticket Deals. Craigslist is great for finding furniture, roommates, and missed connections. But tickets to concerts and games? Not so much. Especially true of high-profile events like the Super Bowl, the anonymity of Craigslist lets scammers find prey for their fraudulent ticket deals all too easily.
Perhaps you saw Sharon Osgood's name in the headlines recently; the die-hard 49ers fan wired $5,900 to a seller on Craigslist for last-minute Super Bowl tickets, only to find out—you guessed it—the listing was a scam.
Osgood is just one of the many people ripped off on Craigslist and similar sites every day. While her story ended happily with replacement tickets and breakfast with Troy Aikman, few are as lucky. Last year, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) received more than 1,000 complaints from consumers who spent an arm and a leg on Super Bowl tickets that turned out to be counterfeit or were never even delivered.
The BBB recommends ticket buyers stick with third-party sellers Ticketmaster and StubHub, as these sites guarantee the authenticity of all tickets sold through them. However, if you must venture outside these channels to buy last-minute Super Bowl tickets, do not wire money; it's best to pay with a credit card or other third party payment processor. The BBB also suggests cross-referencing the seats on a ticket with a seating chart to ensure they actually exist.
And as always, be wary of too-good-to-be-true offers. The lowest Super Bowl ticket price on StubHub is around $1,500, and up to $14,000 for a sideline, mid-field, second-row ticket. If you plan to go to the Super Bowl, it's going to be expensive. Just accept it.
Travel Package Scams. The U.S. Department of Travel is warning consumers of football travel scams that involve discount "package" deals that cover everything from airfare to hotel rooms for Super Bowl weekend—everything except for the actual tickets to the game.
According to the DOT website, under the department's consumer protection rules, any organization that markets a Super Bowl air package as including game tickets must actually have the physical tickets or "a written contract for the tickets before the operator does any advertising." Additionally, anyone who purchases one of these packages that claims to include tickets, yet does not receive them, is entitled to a full refund on the package even if they traveled to the destination of the game.
Unless tickets are explicitly mentioned in the advertisement, they're probably not included.
Counterfeit and Unlicensed Merchandise. In addition to fake tickets and travel deals, the BBB warns that there will be a number of vendors hawking unlicensed merchandise (i.e., counterfeit gear). Just recently, two downtown Las Vegas kiosks were shut down for selling unlicensed sports merchandise in a nationwide crackdown led by Homeland Security.
Michael Harris, assistant special agent for Homeland Security Investigations in Las Vegas, stated "Not only does this activity undermine the U.S. economy and rob Americans of jobs, but the proceeds from the sale of product knockoffs are often used to promote other types of crime,” according to the Las Vegas Sun.
Not to mention, as the BBB points out, counterfeit goods are often of poorer quality.
There will be six official Super Bowl XLVII vendors in New Orleans, which can be found on the NFL website, so attendees can avoid buying fake and/or stolen fan gear by sticking with these sellers.
Pickpockets. Finally, while pickpocketers could be considered their own breed of lowlife criminal. Though they are not necessarily scammers, victims of pickpocketing are sure to feel like they ended up on the wrong end of a bad deal.
Big crowds full of tourists—many of whom are quite likely tipsy on too many game refreshments—are highly attractive to pickpocketers and make easy targets. During 2012's Super Bowl event held in Indianapolis, police significantly upped their presence in anticipation of heightened crime during the weekend. "Police expect pickpockets to flock to the city because of the massive crowds that will pack downtown during Super Bowl week. Theft is one of the most prevalent crimes that plagues the annual sporting event," reported the Chicago Sun Times.
Game attendees are advised to keep wallets in their front pockets and purses worn across their chests to make them more secure, and to avoid carrying more than the necessary cards and cash while walking about the stadium and surrounding city.
Super Bowl XLVII promises to be worth the money for football fans traveling to New Orleans to see the game live. If you're one of them, don't add to the expense by falling victim to a scam or theft. Don't hesitate to be suspicious of the sources of your tickets, airfare and merchandise, and investigate their authenticity thoroughly before handing over your money.
Casey Bond writes for www.GoBankingRates.com, your source for the best online savings account rates, CD rates, personal finance news, and more.