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BBB warns Steelers fans against ticket, merchandise scams

Stephen Huba
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Chaz Palla
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown reaches out to stiff-arm the Colts' Darius Butler in the first half Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Heinz Field.

The Better Business Bureau is warning Steelers fans to be smart when making online purchases for playoff tickets/merchandise and to ensure they are buying from a trustworthy source.

Last year, BBB Scam Tracker received more than 5,200 combined reports regarding online purchase scams and counterfeit products, with roughly 300 of those reports pertaining to various ticket scams.

“When it comes to such high profile events as NFL playoff games, online fraudsters capitalize on fans’ excitement and the limited, high demand for tickets to scam people out of their hard-earned money,” said Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA.

“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for counterfeit tickets to appear on the secondary resale market and for websites to pop up selling poor quality, unlicensed merchandise, if delivered at all,” King said.

Previously, BBB issued a warning against suspicious apparel websites selling Steelers merchandise. However, BBB Scam Tracker reports indicate similar issues with another website (steelersteamofficialshop.com) that also claims to be the “official online store of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Consumers have advised BBB that they placed orders with the business and paid in full, but have not received products or a refund. The website falsely claims BBB accreditation and does not provide a valid physical address, but is shown as being registered in China.

Follow these BBB tips to avoid ticket scams and online purchase scams:

Purchase tickets from the venue. Whenever possible, use the official ticket sales agent for the venue. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ website lists Ticketmaster as the official ticket source to purchase tickets for individual games and NFL Ticket Exchange as another source to purchase game tickets directly from other season ticket holders and fans. Tickets being sold through alternative means, such as Craigslist or through scalpers outside the stadium are difficult to verify.

Check out the seller. Look them up on bbb.org to learn what other customers have experienced and to confirm a company’s BBB rating and accreditation status. If a website is claiming to be an official site, authorized to sell licensed products, confirm this directly with the team, league or source it is claiming to be authorized by. Check to see if ticket brokers are a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers at VerifiedTicketSource.com .

Buy only from trusted vendors using secure methods. A security enabled web page will begin with “https,” instead of just “http” and will have a lock symbol that displays as green to verify security. Always pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the charge later. Payment by prepaid debit cards, wire transfers and cash transactions are risky. Avoid clicking through to websites from emails or online ads; a common scam trick is to create a web address that is similar to a well-known company.

Know the refund/return policy. Only purchase tickets and merchandise from sellers that provide clear details about the terms of the transaction and specific policies and time frames regarding how to make returns and obtain full refunds. Prior to purchase, ticket sellers should disclose the location of the seats and if the tickets are not available for immediate access, when the tickets will ship or be available for pickup.

Beware of below market pricing. Fake websites advertise cheap prices for highly sought after tickets and “officially licensed items” such as jerseys as a way to attract and encourage fans to make a quick purchase and provide sensitive information. In many cases, either the tickets/items never materialize or merchandise received is of poor quality. If it sounds like an unbelievable deal, there’s usually a reason.

Confirm contact information. Identify the business name, physical address, phone number and email address. If no contact information or verifiable business information is listed, it’s a red flag. Suspicious websites often provide a contact-us submission form as the only way of reaching the company and if a phone number is provided, it may lead only to an answering machine or disconnected number. In addition, look for a website’s privacy policy and terms and conditions before placing an order.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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