Thursday morning, I did a quick search of the Lima/Findlay area Craigslist for tickets to the NCAA men’s basketball championship. Surprisingly, there weren’t any March Madness tickets for sale in our area, so I did another search in Dayton’s Craigslist, where I found 93 ads for those hot tickets, just in Dayton alone!
Craigslist is just one of many internet sites people scour for deals on tickets.
During my searches in other areas of the country, I came across a news story from a Pasco, Washington, TV station about a diehard Gonzaga University fan’s Craigslist purchase last year that turned March Madness into “March Sadness.” The Gonzaga fan in the story ended up paying $500 for the privilege of rooting on his Zags, only to find that, instead of gaining admittance to the arena, he was instead talking with a security person “with a headset on saying, ‘No, that’s not a real ticket.’”
Today’s ticket scammers put legitimate-looking pictures of their counterfeit tickets online. It’s easy, with the proliferation of inexpensive high-quality printers, to create a bogus ticket that looks like the real deal.
We want to point out not every ticket for sale online is being sold by a scammer, but with ticket prices for the championship game going from $100 to $2,000, you really need to protect yourself if you decide to buy online.
Play it smart by following these guidelines:
• You can’t go wrong by buying directly from the NCAA. Even if a game is sold out, the NCAA has set up a website called NCAA Ticket Exchange (www.ncaa.com/exchange), which allows fans to safely buy and sell NCAA championship tickets from other fans. The buyer can be sure that the tickets are authentic and 100 percent guaranteed.
• If you’re buying tickets online, not from the NCAA website, you’re probably purchasing from a third-party ticket broker or reseller. Before you lay down your cash, research the reseller. Simply type in the name of the site followed by reviews into your search engine. People don’t hesitate to post stories of poor service. It doesn’t necessarily mean the site is a scammer, but it could be a sign of someplace you should avoid.
• Don’t fall for too-good-to-be-true prices. It may seem like a good deal, but that is often a tactic scammers use to lure victims.
• Before you pay for tickets, get the details, info such as section number, row and seat number. Then verify the seats are legitimate by checking against the event venue’s seating chart.
• Be very skeptical, and use a credit card only. It should be a huge red flag if the seller asks you to wire them money through Western Union or Walmart or to use a cashier’s check or money order. If this happens, it is most probably a scam. If you send money using one of these methods, there is no way for you to recover it.
• Ask the seller their physical location and how you may be able to contact them after the sale. Avoid the sale if the seller is evasive.
• If you do come across a ticket seller, call the BBB, and share your experience with us so we can help other fans avoid the con.
Scammers know that sports fans are loyal and fanatical and more than willing to spend big money to see their favorite team play. If you are looking to buy tickets online or from a seller you don’t know, be sure to keep your wits about you. Don’t be afraid to cancel the deal if something doesn’t seem right.
Here’s hoping your team wins!
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.