This blog post was written by Bruce Snell.
For basketball fans, March is a great month. It’s time to fill out your bracket and cheer for your favorite team. Sports bars will see increased business as friends get together to watch the game and have fun. It’s also a time for scammers looking to make a quick buck. With ticket prices for the final game selling from $100 to $2000 through reputable online ticket retailers, it becomes a really attractive market for scammers.
Craigslist is a big source of people looking to sell extra or unwanted tickets. A quick search for “tickets” in my local area returned over 2000 results. Unfortunately, it’s also a way for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting people looking to buy tickets to a sold-out event. Cheap, high quality printers have made it much easier for scammers to create counterfeit tickets that maybe wouldn’t look legitimate in person but would look like the real deal in a picture.
A lot of the listings for tickets on Craigslist actually redirect to 3rd party ticket brokers, many of which are legitimate businesses. However, it’s a relatively trivial task for a scammer to set up a fake website to prey on people eager to score tickets to watch their favorite team play in the NCAA championships. These websites may look just as polished as legitimate ticket resellers, but are set up just to help add legitimacy to a scammer.
Of course cybercriminals will also be looking to take advantage of excited sports fans during the playoffs. You should be on the lookout for posts on social media offering chances to win tickets. This is a great way to entice people to click on a link that leads to a site infected with malware, or trick people into providing their name and email address to spammers. Cybercriminals are opportunistic and March Madness is great lure for the unsuspecting.
So how do you stay safe?
Go to the source: The number one way to keep from being caught by a scammer is to purchase your tickets directly from the source. The NCAA has actually set up the NCAA Ticket Exchange that allows people to safely buy and sell tickets to other fans. This site has the advantage of being backed and guaranteed by the NCAA. Of course, no one is forced to use this site to sell their tickets, so there will still be plenty of tickets listed on 3rd party sites.
Research the reseller: If you are going to use a 3rd party, do a quick internet search for reviews of their website. Just type in the name of the site followed by “reviews” into your search engine of choice and see what others have to say. People are rarely hesitant to post stories of poor service online. When looking at reviews, just because someone posts a negative review about a reseller’s fees doesn’t mean they are scammers, but it is something you should keep in mind when making the decision.
Use a credit card: One thing that should always raise a flag is when the reseller is asking for a wire transfer or a cashier’s check. With these methods, there is no way to recover your money in case of a scam. Most credit cards have fairly robust fraud prevention and recovery policies that could help you recover your money in the case of a scam.
Be skeptical: We all know that one person on Facebook who is constantly sharing “enter to win” posts on their wall. Do you know anyone who has ever won something by entering one of these social media contests? Odds are, clicking on the link will not actually enter you to win Final Four tickets, but will either send you to a spam website with countless ads or attempt to infect your system with malware. Sometimes the jackpot you get is that the site is full of spam AND malware.
Sports fans are known to be loyal and fanatical and this is something that scammers are looking to take advantage of. If you are looking to buy 2nd hand tickets, make sure to keep your wits about you and don’t hesitate to back out if something seems off.
Enjoy March Madness, but above all, stay safe.
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