This year's Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the San
Francisco 49ers is generating dynamic storylines, but it also can
generate damage to your credit lines and credit card accounts.
In fact, some credit card users already have been tackled by
sophisticated Super Bowl-related scams, and experts say other
rip-offs are lurking out there, poised to hit unsuspecting
consumers with big losses.
One, for instance, popped up on the Internet just the other day
and, as of this writing, remains in operation. It claims to be "The
Official Store of the Baltimore Ravens," which it is not. One way
to tell: A prominent and apparently permanent typo has the
operation calling itself the "
"It's buyer beware for counterfeit merchandise and tickets in
New Orleans," said Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for
, the league's official merchandising operation. "If it is too good
to be true, it probably is."
Along with your credit score, a lot of money is at stake. "The
Super Bowl is the largest single-day event in the world," McCarthy
said. "The NFL is a $9.5 billion business." About $3.3 billion of
that comes from retail sales, according to research reports.
So, yes, it is that time again. The Super Bowl and the entire
pro football playoff season is one of the hottest marketing periods
of the year.
"We don't provide sales figures from NFLShop.com," he said.
"But, yes, to the victors go the spoils. The 49ers and Ravens have
become the best-selling teams, with Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Joe Flacco
being top sellers from the Ravens [and] Colin Kaepernick, Frank
Gore and Patrick Willis from the 49ers."
As a consequence, this championship game, with its unique
charms, provides special opportunity for scam artists and poses
special perils for consumers.
Three of the most worrisome dangers to the credit lines attached
to your cards:
- Buying unauthorized merchandise and phony memorabilia from
bogus websites, goods that may never be delivered, though your
credit card will be charged and, possibly, your credit identity
will be stolen.
- Buying fake or nonexistent game tickets, and then shouldering
the costs of travel to a game that is being played inside a
stadium that you can't enter.
- Whipping out the plastic to buy a big-ticket, flat-screen TV
that turns out to be a nearly discontinued model. Consumer
electronics retailers say that the week leading up to the Super
Bowl is the second busiest TV sales week of the year, exceeded
only by the period that begins right after Thanksgiving.
In all three cases, credit card users can find that their
emotions outrun their common sense.
"People are excited," said Jody Thomas, vice president of
communications for the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland.
"Sports fans are passionate and, so, when there's a playoff game or
a Super Bowl, it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals. How often
does your team go to the Super Bowl?"
The bureau recently discovered two sophisticated websites that
claimed to be official Ravens team stores -- the "Bavens" shop and
another that calls itself the "
." Both offer merchandise at considerable discounts to the prices
charged by the genuine
Ravens online merchandise store
, but credit card users who deal with the two bogus operations do
so at their own risk.
The Web domain for the so-called "Ravens Jerseys Shop" was
created just three months ago and is registered in China, two
factors that Thomas cites as "red flags." Another leading indicator
of trouble: The Better Business Bureau logo found on the bottom of
that page links to ... nothing. That reassuring logo has been
The result is predictable. People who buy from the site almost
certainly are receiving knock-offs of genuine articles -- if they
receive anything at all.
"My credit card was charged $59.99, but I did not receive the
product," one customer of the "Ravens Jersey Shop" told the Better
Business Bureau. "I sent them a message through their website and
have not heard a response."
That customer disputed the charge through his credit card
company and has received a temporary credit, Thomas said. "Using a
credit card was the best thing he did," she said.
But, at least theoretically, that might not be the end of it.
Operations that deceptively claim to be official team stores and
fail to deliver purchased goods are far more likely than other
operations to harvest your credit card information and put it to
fraudulent use -- a ticking time bomb for some consumers.
"With financial and identity theft of all kinds, these things go
grossly underreported because people often don't know right away
what has happened to them," Thomas said. "Our advice -- this is a
great time of year to get that
annual credit report
that everyone is entitled to."
In 2012, at least one counterfeit NFL merchandising site was put
out of business and seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agents. When you click on its
now, you find a seizure notice posted by federal officials along
with a video warning consumers about the dangers of dealing with
illicit retail operations.
Along with team jerseys and other clothing, sports memorabilia
and Super Bowl ticket sales are areas especially ripe for abuse,
With that in mind, here are some tips from the Better Business
Bureau and the NFL:
- Use credit cards for your purchase. Not debit cards, said
Thomas, "and God forbid, don't use cash or wire money." "Credit
cards give you about as much protection as you can get," she
- Buy official sports gear directly from the Super Bowl teams'
websites or from other authorized online or brick-and-mortar
- If you are tempted to purchase autographs or other
memorabilia, check out the seller's reputation with the Better
Business Bureau, ask for certificates of authenticity and
research the item to determine its true market value.
- Still in the market for a Super Bowl ticket? Be very careful.
Thousands of tickets are listed on classified retailing websites,
and dishonest sellers are legion. Your safest path is to buy from
the NFL itself or from a well-known reputable re-seller. "NFL
Ticket Exchange powered by Ticketmaster is the only secondary
market site affiliated with the NFL," McCarthy said. The Better
Business Bureau noted that Ticketmaster and StubHub guarantee the
authenticity of tickets sold through those sites.
- If the upcoming game motivates you to finally buy that large
flat-screen TV you've had your eye on, be aware that the best
deals are likely being offered on last year's holiday season
leftovers. Televisions with the newest technology begin hitting
stores in a month or two.
The bottom line, in every regard: Fans should not let their
passions cloud their judgment to the point where they whip out
their credit cards and fall for Super Bowl scams or otherwise end
up with a season-ending case of buyer's remorse.
"We know that sports fans love their teams, but the fallout from
this is not going to end when the game ends," Thomas said. "We're
already starting to receive emails about memorabilia that people
bought and now are raising suspicions.
"Just trust your common sense," she said. "If you know a jersey
normally costs $100 and you see it being advertised for $60, that's
a good warning sign that something isn't right. Just use your good
sense. It's as simple as that."
And that applies whether you're a fan of the Bavens or the
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