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Digital Citizens News

Even As Your Team Wins, You Can Still Lose

Published Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Before the First Jump Ball, The Digital Citizens Alliance Provides Tips on How Consumers Can Protect Themselves From NCAA Scam Artists

Washington, DC - NCAA basketball fans will certainly move fast to get tickets for this year¹s tournament, but it is just as important to be careful. Because of the tightly packed schedule and the number of sites there is little time for consumer verification and plenty of opportunity for fraud - especially if you utilize online vendors you may not have dealt with before.

“This kind of fast-paced travel need is a primary target for travel scams in addition to counterfeit game tickets,” said Garth Bruen, a Digital Citizens Security Fellow and Internet fraud analyst.

Bruen added, “Some packages may try to distract from the poor value by pumping up cheap freebees like programs, lanyards, hats, etc.” He suggests that fans protect themselves by:

  • Using a credit card and never wire transfers for booking hotel rooms;
  • Verify with actual hotel employees that they do business with the third-party travel service you are using;
  • If you are going to buy tickets at an online community like Craigslist remember there are no refunds or guarantees.
  • Avoid packages that try to distract from the poor value by pumping up cheap freebees.
  • When conducting transactions for your packages, request detailed names, business entities, locations, and confirmation numbers. If the seller cannot provide this information do not complete it.

The NCAA’s website ( includes ticket package offers. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) also can provide help for ticket buyers. Fans can see on the BBB Business Review if there are any complaints against a business. Shoppers should watch out for sites that provide deep discounts, but do not offer refunds or guarantees.

The tournament pool is another popular pastime during March, but fans should be wary of gambling with strangers online. That is because it is illegal to transfer funds for gambling in the United States.

“You can play, but you can’t collect your winnings,” said Bruen. “Even if this online betting service is legitimate there is no guarantee your winnings will be delivered.”

It is easy to forget this is the case. Bruen points to, the second site returned from a Google search for ‘March Madness 2013’, coming in above CBS Sports (which airs the NCAA tournament) and just below the result for the NCAA itself. If you click on the ‘Bet Now’ button at it leads to a website in Latvia. There is no clear organizational disclosure on and their domain WHOIS information is concealed by a company called ‘NameCheap.’

“This placement offers the face of legitimacy and is done with the most expert online marketing sorcery,” Bruen said. “Remember, this was not found by a search for gambling, simply a search for the tournament. Is a scam? Not necessarily, but they are targeting Americans with no warning that it may be illegal and due to uncontrollable circumstances the sites may close with no payouts to the customer.”

For more on the site, click here to see Garth Bruen¹s full blog post at the

An earlier Digital Citizens Alliance report, ‘Are You Ready for Fake Bowl 47?’ looked at the potential for counterfeiters to make big money with fake Super Bowl tickets. The NCAA tournament could be the next biggest opportunity for these scam artists. There is no good way to look out for counterfeits without having the tickets in hand.

However, don’t let your desire to verify the tickets lead you to meet a seller in less than ideal conditions. Follow the same safety rules you would when meeting a stranger:

  • Meet in a public place with security cameras like a chain coffee shop;
  • Never go alone, tell someone where you are going and who you are meeting
  • Don’t bring large amounts of cash, and ask the seller to provide identification;
  • Never let a stranger come to your house and never go to a private house or get into a stranger’s car;
  • If the seller refuses to bring identification, don’t buy tickets from them, record details with your camera phone.

If you would like to speak with Garth Bruen, please contact Adam Benson from the Digital Citizens Alliance at 202.999.9104.


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