Have you filled out your bracket yet? “March Madness”, the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, begins March 14! Northern California fans have a special opportunity to see the action live this year. There will be first and second round games in Sacramento on March 17 and 19, and the West Regional games will held in San Jose on March 23 and 25.
Buying tickets, however, can be difficult. In 2016, BBB received nearly 3,000 complaints about ticket brokers and ticket sales companies. The most common complaint was issues with refunds and exchanges, followed by poor customer service. Buying authentic gear to support your favorite team can also be tricky. Consumers reported around 500 counterfeit product scams to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016.
If you’re hoping to score legitimate March Madness tickets or merchandise, follow these tips from your BBB:
- Watch out for ticket scams. The best way to buy March Madness tickets is through the NCAA’s website. If they’re sold out and you need to go through a reseller, make sure to look the business up on org to see their rating, complaint history and reviews from past customers. There are a number of trustworthy BBB Accredited resellers to choose from. Before buying, read the refund and guarantee policies carefully to see if there are buyer protections. Anytime you purchase a ticket on a secondary ticket resale market, ticket fraud can occur. Visit bbb.org/tickets for tips to avoid fraudulent ticket purchasing.
- Do your research when traveling. When booking a flight or hotel through an online site, make sure to look the site up on org. Reading about a business online can help you avoid scams and issues that others have dealt with already. Consumers reported around 300 travel/vacation scams to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016. Some reports involved booking hotels through online third party sites and discovering upon arrival that the hotel or the reservation simply did not exist. Scammers may also attempt to phish consumers by creating fake hotel websites imitating legitimate brands in an attempt to steal personal and financial information. For more tips on booking a trip online, click here.
- Don’t fall for a prize scam. If you receive an email out of the blue claiming that you won a free trip and tickets to a March Madness game, don’t get too excited. In 2016, consumers reported more than 2,300 sweepstakes/lottery/prize scams to BBB Scam Tracker. If you get an unsolicited phone call, email or letter saying that you’ve won a big prize, but first have to send a small sum of money to pay for processing fees or taxes, it’s probably a scam. You’ll never have to pay to receive a free prize.
- Only buy authentic apparel. A great way to show support for your favorite team is by buying jerseys, hats and other apparel. When doing so, however, watch out for counterfeit goods! The best way to ensure that you’re buying authentic merchandise is by purchasing from the NCAA’s official shop or the official shop of your favorite team. You can also buy from authorized resellers, but if you’re unfamiliar with the business or website, make sure to look it up at org. If an item is far less expensive than those from official shops, it’s probably a fake. Watch out for any spelling or grammar errors on the website or merchandise and avoid online marketplaces.