March Madness brackets are out and so are the scams


There’s only one official ticket exchange website

March Madness could quickly turn into March Sadness for NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament ticket buyers if they’re not careful.

Now that the pairings have been announced, fans are looking for tickets, but the ticket brokers have beaten many of them to the punch, buying “official” tickets in advance and marking them up.

However, some so-called ticket brokers aren’t ticket brokers at all. They’re scammers sitting at home loading up social media with lures they think they can get desperate fans to bite on and not even worry about filling those orders because they don’t actually have NCAA tickets.

And you can expect those scammers to ask high prices, too. Given what's happened to defending national champion UCONN already during the regular season, anyone in New Mexico who wants to follow their beloved Lobos or the Hilltopper fans in Kentucky who want to roll with Western's Big Red should be prepared to pony up ridiculous amounts like $5,000 per ticket.

The anatomy of a scam

Ticket scams aren’t anything new, but because of artificial intelligence (AI), scammers are getting slicker than ever before. 

ConsumerAffairs took the situation to AI generators to see how much they could help these scammers out in automating social media scams.

We asked AI to write a Facebook post based on this request: “I want to sell four NCAA men's basketball tickets for the Mideast Regional March 20-23 at Madison Square Garden. Price is $55 each. Write me a Facebook post under 150 words that would promote that.”

Here’s what we got back…

'Who's up for March Madness?! Selling 4 tickets to the Mideast Regional at Barclays Center (March 20-23) for $55 each!

See Northwestern take on Florida Atlantic and UConn battle Stetson! These tickets get you into all the games, so come catch the excitement!

DM me if you're interested! #MarchMadness #MideastRegional #Tickets #Barclays

Impressive to say the least, right down to the hashtags.

More AI shiftiness

Creating high-quality forgeries: One of AI’s strengths is the ability to create incredibly realistic, near-perfect fake tickets, down to the holograms and watermarks. 

Beating CAPTCHAs and security checks:  Some scammers are now using AI to bypass CAPTCHAs (where you click on a grid of photos or write back the numbers and letters on a graphic). This allows them to automate large-scale ticket schemes, buying up vast quantities of tickets before anyone else has a chance.

They’ll stalk you, too

On top of using AI for social media, scammers are now targeting fans on social media. They’ll burrow into a Duke Blue Devils fan site and wait for someone who says they’re looking for tickets. TikTok is especially vulnerable to this method where frustration over sold-out events – and desperation – is high. They'll use fake accounts or hijack real ones to offer seemingly good deals.

If someone contacts you, that’s a stop sign if you’ll ever see one.

Don’t use Zelle, don’t use PayPal, don’t use Venmo

The main temptation for ticket buyers this playoff season will be acting in the moment -- buying the available tickets before someone else gets to them. A shotgun wedding if there ever was one.

“I purchased 2 tickets for a concert for the amount of {$380.00},” is how one recent consumer explained being ripped off in a complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). 

“When I didn't receive an email confirmation or any information on my tickets, I became suspicious. I looked up reviews on the company and saw review after review saying it's a scam and that PayPal is in on it. I wasn't worried about a scam because I had used PayPal to purchase the tickets and believed them to be trustworthy. I opened a dispute with PayPal and was denied because they said I received the tickets. I did not.”

There are a couple of reasons why cash apps don't offer purchase protection: Primarily, it’s because they’re designed for person-to-person transactions, not online purchases. Secondly, once you press the button, that transaction is considered “authorized” and that makes it tough to get your money back like you would if you used a credit card.

Remember this about Venmo, Paypal, etc – they act as a facilitator for the transfer and that’s it. They aren't responsible for ensuring the legitimacy of the purchase. If you want protection, only use credit cards, and only use the NCAA’s official “ticket exchange” website.

“NCAA Ticket Exchange is the only 100% guaranteed, NCAA-approved secondary ticket marketplace that allows fans to buy and sell NCAA Championship tickets with other fans,” the group promises.

“Ticket holders who are unable to attend a game have a secure place to safely sell their tickets, and the buyer can be assured that the tickets are authentic and 100% guaranteed.”

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