Better Business Bureau warns of NCAA Tournament scams

The Better Business Bureau is warning people to be careful of scam artists during March Madness, especially with St. Louis Universityâ??s team making it to the tournament and regional games being played in St. Louis.

"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."

The BBB also warns people not to 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 fake merchandise 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

BBB's website lists reputable, secondary market ticket firms that provide buyer protections, including money-back guarantees if tickets are fake. 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 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 questions and be cautious 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.

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