The Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals square off in Super Bowl XLIII Sunday, and fans in both Arizona and Pennsylvania are excited. They should also be on guard against another Super Bowl tradition the Super Bowl scam.
As most of his colleagues have when teams from their states play, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett is cautioning consumers to be wary of potential scams -- including bogus sweepstakes offers, "too good to be true" travel packages or game-day ticket offers.
"The excitement surrounding another Super Bowl trip for the Pittsburgh Steelers may cause some fans to act quickly, without carefully reviewing all the details of a ticket offer or travel promotion," Corbett said. "Scam artists are counting on the fact that enthusiastic fans may not be as attentive as they should be."
Corbett said the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection has received complaints about bogus Super Bowl contest notifications recently sent to Pennsylvania residents.
"The scam letter, which implies that the contest is affiliated with the NFL and VISA, informs consumers that they have won a prize of $100,000 and two tickets to the Super Bowl," Corbett said. "The letter also includes a check for several thousand dollars that consumers are supposed to use to pay the taxes for their prize -- wire transferring the money to a 'claim agent' who will verify their winnings."
Corbett said the criminals, mainly based in Canada or overseas, have been using these types of sweepstakes notifications to lure Pennsylvania consumers into cashing counterfeit checks and wire-transferring money for several months. The Attorney General's Office issued a warning to consumers about aggressive "easy money" lottery and sweepstakes scams last October.
"The lure of a large cash prize, combined with tickets to the Super Bowl, may be too much of a temptation for some consumers," Corbett said. "Unfortunately, consumers who try to claim their prize by sending money to these scam artists will quickly learn that there is no $100,000 jackpot, there are no Super Bowl tickets, and the check they were given to pay the taxes will eventually be returned as counterfeit or forged."
Corbett also encouraged Steelers fans considering a trip to Florida for the game to shop carefully for their travel packages or tickets:
Make sure that you are dealing with a reputable travel agent and do not assume that ads offering travel deals are being offered by travel agencies.
Pay particular attention to what the travel package does and does not offer. Do not assume that every package includes airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to get into the game.
If the package includes airfare and a ticket to the game, federal rules apply. The travel agent must either have the game tickets in hand, or have a written contract to obtain the tickets before the agent can make the offer. If a ticket is offered, but never provided, you may be entitled to a full refund of the entire package price.
Do not be pressured into making an immediate decision about a particular package.
Research the hotel and its location. In some instances, consumers have been told that their hotel is within walking distance to the venue, when in reality it was too far to walk and required additional expenses to either rent a car or pay for other ground transportation.
Get all the terms and conditions of your package in writing, including the cancellation policy in the event that you are unable to make the trip.
Use a credit card to pay for travel packages and tickets. Do not use cash or wire money. You can dispute charges on a credit card and have little-to-no recourse when using cash.
Be wary of unknown and private sellers who refuse to provide you with verifiable contact information.
Be cautious of travel packages that appear to be extremely cheap or extremely expensive.
Contact the Better Business Bureau or Attorney General's Office to see if the travel agency is in good standing.
"In the past, our office has heard from consumers who fell victim to phony travel agents and ticket sellers," Corbett said. "In several cases, consumers learned at the gate that their tickets were counterfeit and they were denied entry. In other cases, fans purchased hotel rooms that were inconveniently located. Still others told our office that they were quoted a certain amount on a Super Bowl package and were charged additional fees for services that they thought were included."