(Columbus, OH) – March Madness brings a personal thrill of the game to fans across the country… and it also can be a slam dunk for scammers aiming at you and your money while filling out brackets, buying tickets, or streaming live video.
“Many fans who normally wouldn’t click on a link may be more inclined to do so if an email appears to come from a friend or co-worker. There’s less of a perception of security risk,” said Judy Dollison, President of the BBB serving Central Ohio. Other emails might come from fellow pool participants who have already been hacked or friends who bought fake tickets. “Beware of messages asking everyone in a group to send pool payments to a new, unknown account or a ticket source offering a deal too-good-to-be-true.”
Attorney General Dave Yost urges Ohioans to always guard their personal information.
“Not all March Madness ticket offers are a guaranteed win,” he said. “Grifters are out there, looking to take advantage. So fans need to follow the lead of their favorite team and play lock-down defense.”
Although no complaints have been reported to the BBB or the Attorney General’s office, review these tips before the tip-off.
Tips before the Tip-Off:
*When managing your brackets, use well-known bracket sites such as ESPN and CBS and go directly to that site in your browser instead of following links. Be wary if any links seem to take you to a team fan site.
*Don’t open attachments and avoid suspicious emails, such as emails inviting you to join bracket pools or groups you did not request to be part of. If you receive communications about changes, contact the person in charge of the bracket pool to confirm them.
*Don’t give out your personal information to participate in brackets. Your social security number, bank account numbers, PINs and other personal information IS NOT NEEDED.
*Don’t buy tickets from unauthorized sources. DO buy from a business that has some sort of guarantee.
*Be wary of advertisements. When you search the web for online tickets, avoid clicking through online ads or from emails. A common scam trick is to mimic a web address similar to a well-known company.
*Don’t purchase tickets if they don’t include the block, row, and seat details. If those details are missing, the tickets may not be in the hands of the seller yet or not exist at all. Before you buy, ensure the seats do exist in that particular venue.
*If you must purchase tickets or fund your brackets, use a credit card as many offer extra protection. Credit cards often have recourse if the tickets are not as promised but debit cards, wire transfers or cash transactions most often do not.
*Research the seller/broker on BBB.org to learn what other customers have experienced.
Streaming and other eCommerce
*Stream all games on reputable sites to avoid malware and spyware.
*Don’t enter personal information or payments over public WIFI.
*Think before you click – Examine all links on ticketing site ads and in emails by hovering your mouse over it to reveal the full address. If there are letters on the end, that’s a good indicator of a scam. For example, .RU means Russia and .BR means Brazil
*Know that there is no good reason to share personal information, especially financial information, over social messaging or unsecured sites.
Viktoria Jurkovic, Consumer Affairs Manager for the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Financial Institutions emphasizes fans must guard themselves, “Never pay with cash or gift card. Never wire money, it is extremely difficult to retrieve lost funds via money transfer. Instead, pay with a credit card, due to the added protections that debit cards do not have.”
“If there’s somebody who wants to take advantage of somebody, regardless of what they sell – they’re going to do it,” warns Jamie Kaufman, 23 year President of Dream Seats, Inc. “Sites like Craigslist – you don’t want to buy from someone that says meet me here and pay in cash or in advance over peer to peer E-payment platforms. Paper tickets aren’t a thing anymore and a promise of transferring e-tickets after transferring money to someone you don’t know… I’d expect not to ever see those tickets.”