With the Chicago Bears and the neighboring Indianapolis Colts set to square off Sunday in Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is urging fans of both teams purchasing tickets and making frantic travel to exercise caution and not be fooled by shady, last-minute deals.
"With both regional fan favorites, the Bears and the Colts, in the Super Bowl, Illinois and Indiana consumers need to be on guard against fraudulent ticket and travel scams," Madigan said. She offered the following tips and information regarding ticket sales and travel arrangement.
Fans attempting to purchase tickets online from a third party run the risk of receiving a counterfeit ticket or no ticket at all. Consumers should follow several rules in responding to sellers offering ticket deals:
• If dealing with a ticket broker, determine whether the broker is a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers -- -- and the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org. Both organizations have membership standards that promote ethical business conduct.
• If dealing with an Illinois ticket broker, consumers can contact the Illinois Secretary of State's Index Department in Springfield to ensure that the broker is properly registered. Illinois law requires ticket brokers meet certain requirements such as having a toll-free phone number and maintaining a consumer rebate fund.
• Avoid paying cash for tickets on hand from a stranger in the event the tickets may be counterfeit. Consumers should deal only with a seller who accepts credit card payments or other secure payment methods. Consumers are urged not to buy tickets from an unsecured website. Consumers should also be wary of online escrow sites, especially those recommended by a seller. If an escrow site is suggested, the consumer should independently investigate whether the site is legitimate.
• Consumers should be aware that tickets to many of the parties held in conjunction with the Super Bowl are by "invitation only" and cannot be re-sold. Tickets to such an event may be counterfeit.
• Most importantly, consumers should never wire any payment to a seller for any reason. Buyers are sometimes told that they will receive Super Bowl tickets after wiring money to an unknown seller. In many cases, the consumer will end up being a victim of fraud.
"Right now, both teams are preparing their game plans," Madigan said. "There's no reason why fans shouldn't do the same and prepare themselves against unscrupulous ticket and travel vendors."
The Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Transportation has established rules for Super Bowl travel package promoters. These rules require that tour operators who market Super Bowl packages that include tickets to the game must have either already purchased the tickets or have a written contract for the tickets before advertising a package.
This "Truth in Ticketing" rule also requires that companies pay full refunds to consumers when they sell a travel package that includes game tickets, but fail to provide the game tickets. These refunds must cover the full price paid for the package, including airfare and hotel rooms.
The rule also allows consumers to obtain full refunds if promoters increase the price of the package by more than 10 percent after consumers have paid, and no price increases are allowed during the last 10 days before the departure date.
Fans are reminded to purchase travel packages from providers they have used in the past or ask family or friends to recommend a company that they trust. Madigan said fans should be skeptical if they cannot reach a person on the phone to answer questions or if the company does not give its street address
"As with game preparation, Super Bowl travelers need to protect themselves by checking all the "Xs and Os" before purchasing travel packages," Madigan continued. These include:
• Making sure that tickets to Sunday's game are included in the travel package.
• Getting all information about the travel package in writing and carefully read and fully understand all of the terms and conditions of the travel package before purchasing the trip, including the total price as well as any cancellation and change penalties.
• Purchasing the trip with a credit card will give consumers the ability to dispute a charge if the promoter does not provide what is contracted for.
• Being careful of mail, fax and telephone solicitations offering travel packages to the Super Bowl.
• Calling the travel promoter a few days prior to the departure date to confirm reservations.