The teams are set: The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers will meet for the NFL championship in Dallas next month. That's bringing warnings from Acting Pennsylvania Attorney General Bill Ryan and Michelle Reinen, director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection, about potential scams surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl -- including bogus sweepstakes offers, "too good to be true" travel packages or game-day ticket offers.
“It is important for football fans to carefully review the details of any ticket offer or travel promotion before handing over cash or credit card information,” Ryan said. “Scam artists are counting on the fact that enthusiastic fans will get caught up in the excitement of the Super Bowl and will not be as attentive as they should be."
Ryan said that in past years, Pennsylvania residents have been targeted by scam emails and bogus contests linked to the Super Bowl and other major sporting events. Typically, potential victims are told that they have won tickets to the game and are asked to wire transfer money to a “claims agent” in order to pay for taxes and other fees.
“Consumers need to be especially cautious when purchasing tickets from an online third-party,” said Reinen. “Fraudulent ticket offers often appear on websites like Craigslist and in other classified advertisements.”
According to the NFL, in recent years, between 100 and 250 football fans have shown up at Super Bowl games with bogus tickets. While these fans experienced the disappointment of missing the game -- they also took a big hit to their pocketbooks when you consider the price they paid for their tickets, lodging and travel.
In other scams, consumers may receive an authentic looking check -- intended to cover some of their expenses -- along with instructions to deposit the check and transfer a portion of that money to cover airfare, lodging or other expenses. In reality, criminals have sent a counterfeit check and are counting on the fact that victims will act quickly and send money before their bank notifies them that the check is worthless.
“Before hopping on a plane for Texas, make sure you have the official game tickets in your procession,” Reinen advises. “Legitimate Super Bowl tickets are printed on thick, heavy paper with barcodes, holograms and raised ink. In addition, the NFL says the tickets include heat sensitive logos that disappear with the touch of a thumb.”
Ryan and Reinen offer the following tips for Steelers and Packers fans considering a trip to Texas for the game:
- Make sure you are dealing with a reputable travel agent and do not assume 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 of 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.
- Do not give out your credit card number online or over the phone unless you are sure the seller is legitimate.
- Use a credit card rather than cash, check or debit card to purchase tickets since it may provide some protection if you do not receive the tickets.
"In past years, our office has received complaints from consumers who have fallen victim to phony travel agents and ticket sellers," Ryan said. "In some of those cases, consumers learned at the gate that their tickets were counterfeit and they were denied entry."
“These days, with all the scams out there, we find ourselves repeating a common phrase when it comes to consumer protection,” concluded Reinen. “If an offer seems too good to be true -- it probably is.”