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Scammed: Milwaukee doctor’s office is NOT selling Final Four tickets; BBB issues another warning

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is warning fans shopping on Craigslist for Final Four tickets to be wary of scams after one North Carolina woman lost more than $1,400.

On Monday, March 30th, “Jane” (name withheld for privacy) of North Carolina decided to purchase NCAA tickets as a surprise gift for her husband’s 50th birthday.  She Googled and found a Craigslist ad offering two tickets for the Duke versus Michigan game on Saturday, April 4th in Indianapolis. The seller identified himself as a doctor in southeastern Wisconsin, and Googling his name confirmed that to be true.

Jane was then referred to a website called “Purchase Tickets Safely” which listed a supposed Milwaukee address as “W. St. Paul Ave.” and followed instructions to send her money – $1,480 – via wire transfer. When she didn’t receive her tickets, she emailed the “seller” only to be told that he decided to increase the price by $500, and if she still wanted the tickets she must remit the additional payment. The emails were riddled with grammatical errors which raised questions about whether a doctor was the true author.

Jane looked up the doctor’s phone number and called him directly, only to be told by the office receptionist that they had received dozens of such calls this week – people reporting purchasing tickets that never surfaced.

The BBB Serving Wisconsin discovered that there is no such company, “Purchase Tickets Safely”  on “W. St. Paul Avenue” nor is there one with the same or similar name registered as a corporation in Wisconsin. According to the URL information, the website was created less than two weeks ago. The BBB confirmed with the doctor’s office that it has received more than thirty calls this week from consumers just like Jane.

On Monday, the BBB sent out this press release warning about ticket scams such as this.

Unfortunately, large sporting events are hotbeds for scammers just looking to make a fast buck off of unsuspecting fans, and the high cost of attending a prestigious event like March Madness leads fans to scour the Internet for the best deal. Con artists (often located overseas) take advantage of this opportunity to capitalize on tickets that may not even exist.

The BBB suggests taking your time when making a purchase and offers the following tips to avoid ticket scams:

Use reliable sellers. Beware of fly-by-night ticket sellers. Check first with the NCAA’s official ticket resale website at primesport.com or the official NCAA Ticket Exchange. If purchasing from a ticket broker, check its reliability with BBB. Also check to see if they are members of the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB).

Check your ticket vendor’s guarantee policy. Many legitimate ticket websites, including members of the NATB, guarantee tickets sold on their sites and will replace them or provide refunds to customers if they receive the wrong tickets or their tickets are invalid. Craigslist and other online classifieds operate under the “buyer beware” premise and offer no such guarantees.

Use secure websites for online transactions. When buying tickets or making online reservations, make sure that you’re using a secure website. Look for a padlock on the page, and the letter “s” in the URL after “http.”  If neither is present, the site is not secure and your payment information may not be safe. Spelling and grammatical errors, capital letters where there should be lowercase and vice versa, as well as a newly formed website are red flags the “company” may not be local or legitimate.

Do your research. If buying online from a third-party seller, request a fax copy of the tickets before making payment to confirm the seats match up with the venue. Look for authentic security marks on the actual paper tickets.

Don’t believe you’re that lucky. The reason tickets are expensive is because they’re hard to get and the chances of getting lucky and finding a deal are slim. If a situation sounds too good to be true, such as someone selling tickets for much less than offered elsewhere, be leery.

Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card is a secure way to do business and offers the most protection should something go wrong. Never pay by reloadable debit card or wire transfer money to someone you don’t know. Meet in person if possible.

Be prepared to pay additional fees. Unlike airline tickets, which are now required by law to disclose all taxes and additional fees upfront, the ticket price listed at the start of the purchasing process will likely not be your final price.

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