With local excitement building for the NCAA Tournament, BBB is warning area residents to be wary of scams tied to the annual championship.

With the Universities of Nebraska, Creighton and Wichita State playing in the NCAA Tournament, basketball fever is on the rise! BBB is warning basketball fans to be careful when buying tickets, travel deals, and basketball memorabilia.

“We are very excited to see our local teams play in the NCAA tournament but scammers prey on that excitement to take advantage of fans, with fake tickets and fake memorabilia,” stated Jim Hegarty  president and CEO of the BBB serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa. “We recommend that you check the company out with BBB before you purchase anything.”

Craigslist has thousands of sports tickets listed, but the site offers no guarantees and the sellers don’t have to provide identification to list tickets. Con artists post non-existent tickets on websites like Craigslist and ask for money to be wired to them. The buyer is out the money – and the tickets. If you decide to buy tickets outside the event, remember there are no refunds or guarantees. Official NCAA ticket information is available at http://www.ncaa.com/tickets.

Also, BBB’s website lists reputable, secondary market ticket firms that provide buyer protections, including money-back guarantees if tickets are fakes. On some sites, sellers also must provide credit card numbers so the site can charge a seller’s card for the cost of replacement tickets if they sell fake tickets.

Before you buy, check out a seller’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org, where you can find out whether complaints have been filed against the business and how the company handled any complaints.

Travel Scams
Lodging scams also can be a problem for events like the NCAA Tournament. Scammers may lure people by advertising low prices – or they may charge a premium by claiming that the hotel is close to the arena when it isn’t. Others may offer tickets with the hotel room, but you have little or no way of verifying whether the tickets are real.

Counterfeit Items
While counterfeit items may seem like a good deal, they are actually stolen goods. If you love your team, don’t buy a hat or jersey from someone who has stolen the team’s name and logo for their own profit. Many counterfeit items are more cheaply made than genuine merchandise, which means they may not last as long as the real thing.

Buying counterfeit memorabilia online poses even more potential problems. Some websites don’t even have merchandise to sell. They just want your credit card number and personal information so they can steal your identity or drain your bank account. The best way to ensure you are getting official sports gear is to buy directly from the team websites, from official vendors at the stadium, or from other trusted stores.

The following are some BBB tips for avoiding scams connected to special events:

*  Read ads carefully to understand what is being offered and what the price will be.

*  Use secure websites for online transactions. Look for a padlock on the page, and the letter “s” in the URL box after the “http.” If neither is present, the site is not secure and your payment information may not be safe.

*  Ask the seller where he or she is located and how he or she may be contacted after the sale. If the seller is evasive, don’t pursue the offer.

*  When booking hotels, ask for the name, address and phone number of the hotel , where the room is located. Then call the hotel directly to verify that the room actually exists. Check the hotel’s website or a reputable travel site to be sure that the location is convenient for getting to and from the arena.

*  Be wary of ads that pile on incentives to make the package look better. Often the items – such as lanyards, T-shirts or other trinkets – have limited value.

*  Use a credit card. A credit card company can assist you with obtaining a refund if the offer turns out to be fraudulent.

For more advice on finding professionals you can trust, visit www.bbb.org or call 1-800-649-6814.

Better Business Bureau, Inc. (BBB) has been assisting U.S consumers and businesses since 1912 and is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing trust in the marketplace. Accountability, education and recognition of business role models are key components to the BBB's mission. Today BBB serving Nebraska, South Dakota the Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa is supported by approximately 10,000 Accredited Businesses that have voluntarily committed to adhere to BBB’s Standards of Trust. Consumers are encouraged to visit bbb.org for Business Reviews on over 4 million companies or to report complaints and possible scams.