Protect Your Wallet and Identity during March Madness

The first game of “March Madness”, the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, is March 13! Although no games are being played in Northern California this year, hardcore fans will certainly either be glued to their TVs or traveling to see the action live.

Attending a game, however, can be tricky. In 2017, BBB received over 3,100 complaints against ticket brokers and event ticket sales companies. Consumers often complain about issues acquiring refunds and misleading advertising.

It can also be difficult to buy authentic gear to support your favorite team. Consumers reported around 900 counterfeit product scams to BBB Scam Tracker in 2017 – up from 500 in 2016! A consumer trying to buy basketball gear online recently reported to BBB Scam Tracker that they “received a knockoff,” but couldn’t return the item. There was “no address, no phone number, just [an] email address.” Anytime you buy a product online, there’s a risk. Online purchase scams were the #1 riskiest scam of 2017, according to the BBB Risk Index.

  • 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 to see their BBB 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 all the details and any buyer protections. Anytime you purchase a ticket on a secondary ticket resale market, ticket fraud can occur. Visit for tips.
  • Do your research when traveling. When booking a flight or hotel through an online site, make sure to look the site up on Reading about a business online can help you avoid scams and issues that others have dealt with already. According to the BBB Risk Index, the travel/vacation scam was the #8 riskiest scam to consumers in 2017. Over 2,500 were reported to BBB Scam Tracker (up from only 300 in 2016), and the median loss was nearly $1,200! Learn more about these scams at For more BBB 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 2017, consumers reported more than 2,800 (up from 2,300 in 2016) sweepstakes/lottery/prize scams to BBB Scam Tracker – making it the fourth most-reported scam of 2017. If you’re told you won a prize but have to pay to receive it, it’s most likely a scam. Learn more at
  • Be careful buying apparel. The safest 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 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. Learn more at and
  • Stay safe online. Make sure every website you visit has a privacy policy and glance it over. Look for the “https:” – the “s” stands for “secure” – and other trust marks. You may see ads touting bracket contests or cheap merchandise while surfing the web, but avoid the urge to click on them! They may lead you to fraudulent websites that’ll try to steal your personal or financial information, or download a virus to your computer. This is especially important when you’re filing out online March Madness brackets. Make sure that you trust any website that’s receiving your information, and be careful sharing too many personal details.

Pearl is the Communications Specialist for Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California (BBB Oakland). She works to advance BBB’s vision of an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other by being proactive in the community and developing relationships with business and consumer groups. Pearl represents BBB at events throughout the Bay Area to educate a wide variety of people. Pearl also manages BBB Oakland’s social media channels.

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Posted in Computers - Internet - Privacy, Consumer Tips, Scams

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