Super Bowl Scams: What Travelers Need to Know

Looking to score big on a Super Bowl travel package? Be careful, because scam artists love to dream up new tricks for major sporting events. The American Society of Travel Agents says millions of dollars are defrauded out of sports fans each year, with the Super Bowl being the main event for swindlers.

"I've been in hotel lobbies and in the line at the game and seen people crying because they've spend $15,000 on tickets and are turned away," says Chris Russo, President and Chair of the ASTA who has had the opportunity to attend four Super Bowls in the past.

"[E]very year we hear reports of sports fans whose travel plans were ruined by shady companies offering sports packages that are just too good to be true," says Russo.

Not surprisingly, ticket scams are the biggest problem. Each year stories make the news telling of rip off artists caught selling fake tickets on websites such as Craigslist and eBay. In 2008 nine people were arrested in a counterfeit ticket ring, and the next year fake e-mails emblazoned with the NFL logo trying to hook fans into forking over money for tickets were widely circulated.

But the tricks don't stop with Super Bowl tickets: swindlers have also posed as travel agents or organizations raffling off bogus travel packages. Some con men have even gone so far as to send postcards or call innocent sports fans in an attempt to dupe them into elaborate hoaxes.

"You run into people saying they have hotel rooms and then you get there and there is no hotel room," says Russo, who explains: "Trying to find a room at the last minute in a Super Bowl city is like trying to find a needle in a haystack."

Russo and the rest of the crew at ASTA teamed up with AOL Travel News to give out some pointers on how travelers can avoid becoming a victim of a Super Bowl scam:

Check the Tickets: According to the U.S. government's 'Truth in Ticketing' rules, tour operators advertising a Super Bowl travel package that includes a flight and game tickets are required to have the game tickets in hand or a written contract for the tickets. "Travel professionals are going to be using legitimate suppliers," says Russo.

Know Your Source: Packages should be booked through a well-known travel agent or tour operator that has a consumer protection plan, which requires the tour operator has been in business for three years and has a $1 million Errors & Omissions policy.

Charge It: If possible, pay with a credit card. The Fair Credit Billing Act gives credit card customers the right to refuse paying for charges for services not rendered.

Read the Fine Print: Get information in writing, read it carefully, and ask your travel agent to explain all the details.

Verify the Room: If feeling uneasy about a package that includes a hotel room, call the hotel and see if your room is booked. The same can be done for airfare.

Be Skeptical: If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Question postcard and phone solicitations saying you've been selected to receive a Super Bowl travel package.

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