How to protect yourself against March Madness ticket scams

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INDIANAPOLIS — March Madness kicks off in less than two weeks with Selection Sunday, and Hoosiers will have a front row seat to the entire tournament this year.

On Tuesday, the NCAA released information on how you can purchase March Madness tickets for the 2021 tournament.

The NCAA says tickets for each round of the tournament will become available on separate days at 10 a.m. EST, with the First Four presale happening on Mar. 4, the First Round presale on Mar. 9, Second Round on Mar. 11 and the Regional Rounds presale on Mar. 16.

The NCAA previously announced that fans will be allowed at March Madness, with up to 25% capacity at Indiana venues. But with limited capacity, security experts believe the demand for tickets will be higher and suggest taking steps to protect yourself from ticket scams.

“Each year, the NCAA reminds fans who plans to attend the tournament games to purchase tickets from authorized sources to reduce chances of fraudulent activities,” a spokesperson with the NCAA told CBS4.

Tim Maniscalo, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving central Indiana, said scams for large sporting events are not uncommon.

“Whenever we see an event like this, we always see an uptick in websites that are out there to cheat you, scam you. This is a prime situation for a scammer to get in there.”

Maniscalo said people who decide to search for tickets online need to be cautious of scams and fake websites that intend to rip off buyers.

A few ways Maniscalo said you can check to see if a website is legitimate is by making sure there is a “S” after “http” in the website’s URL.

He said you should also check for the lock icon in the URL search bar, which shows you the website has already been registered, and there is extra security on there.

“We always tell people, number one: buy through a legitimate site. Number two: use your credit card. You’re going to have the most protection with your credit card,” said Maniscalo.

He said one red flag for buyers is if you notice misspellings or awkward sentences on a website.

“Most of these websites originate outside of the country. They are from people who English is not their native language, and they might say things in a peculiar way and not in a way we would write it or we would express it,” explained Maniscalo.

Maniscalo also said another key giveaway of a potentially fraudulent site is if tickets are a really low price and ask for an alternate form of payment such as wire transfer or a gift card purchase.

“Those types of payments are very difficult to go back and get your money,” he said.

The BBB also recommends people check the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) to check and see if a broker you are hoping to work with is a member.

“All of your legitimate ticket brokers, they register there.”

You can read more tips from the BBB on how to avoid ticket scams.

CBS4 also spoke with the CEO and co-founder of TicketManager, Tony Knopp, whose company manages and tracks sports tickets for major corporations, about how buyers can be sure the tickets they are buying are legitimate.

When it comes to major sporting events like March Madness, Knopp said he personally believes people are better off waiting to purchase tickets from the provider tournaments work with directly before exploring other options.

“March Madness has a partnership where they sell tickets and packages, and that’s through On Location Experiences,” said Knopp.

He said going to providers to purchase tickets, especially for such a high-demand event, could save you a lot of heartache in the long run.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You’re not going to remember the $45 you saved from buying from a website you’ve never heard of,” said Knopp. “Maybe it doesn’t go south for you, but if it does, your once-in-a-lifetime event becomes a once-in-a-lifetime nightmare.”

When tickets are released to the general public for major sporting events, Knopp said it isn’t always what people might believe it to be.

“The general public doesn’t understand how much goes into how tickets are sold, and it’s not what you think it is. It’s not like, you log in at 7 a.m. and you have a fair shot at all of the tickets. That’s just not how it works,” he said.

“You do have a fair shot at a small subset of tickets, but you have people who are involved in the event who get tickets, corporate sponsors who get tickets, you have for whatever reason they’re tied to March Madness.”

Knopp said many times people know they are going to get the tickets and will sell them in advance, but he warns people to be wary of what are known as “speculators” on ticket resale sites.

“What a speculator is, is somebody who says, ‘I think I’m gonna gamble on the ticket market. I think that this ticket I can sell for $400, and I’ll be able to get it for $200 by the time the game comes up,” he explained.

Although many ticket marketplaces have protections for buyer against speculators, Knopp said, “I would personally wait until tickets go on sale directly.”

“If you want a sad day, go to the Super Bowl one day and wait by the box office after kickoff and watch all of the people who got swindled,” said Knopp. “Everybody thinks it’s not gonna happen to them. and the line is much longer than everybody believes, and that happens at March Madness too.”

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