Protect yourself from Super Bowl scams

Individual tickets that originally sold for $800 to $1,200 are being offered by Ticketmaster for re-sale on the official NFL Ticket Exchange at prices ranging from $3,000 to $20,000. You’ll pay through the nose, but these tickets are guaranteed.
Individual tickets that originally sold for $800 to $1,200 are being offered by Ticketmaster for re-sale on the official NFL Ticket Exchange at prices ranging from $3,000 to $20,000. You’ll pay through the nose, but these tickets are guaranteed.ticketexchangebyticketmaster.com

When the Green Bay Packers meet the Pittsburgh Steelers for Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 6, about 100,000 officially ticketed spectators will watch the game from inside Cowboys Stadium. A few thousand additional sports enthusiasts will watch the game on giant video screens at a ticketed “Plaza Party” next to the stadium.

And outside the stadium, there will be an unknown number of forlorn fans staring in disbelief at bogus game tickets, trying to figure out how they got scammed.

Scammers who rip off Super Bowl fans with fake tickets, non-existent hotel rooms and counterfeit souvenir merchandise have become part of the game. The scams persist despite an annual Department of Transportation memo reminding the public that it’s illegal to market a Super Bowl air and ticket package without actually having the tickets or a contract for the tickets in hand.

Want to be among the non-scammed Super Bowl fans? Study these tips from the experts.

There’s no shortage of things to do in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, from shopping to watching a real cattle drive to enjoying the area’s bars and restaurants.

Tickets to the game
Individual tickets that originally sold for $800 to $1,200 are being offered by Ticketmaster for re-sale on the official NFL Ticket Exchange at prices ranging from $3,000 to $20,000. You’ll pay through the nose, but these tickets are guaranteed.

Poke around the Internet and you’ll find plenty of unofficial online marketplaces and auction sites selling tickets. If you choose this route, Jeannette Kopko of the Better Business Bureau serving Dallas and Northeast Texas recommends that you stick with licensed, reputable suppliers or resellers that have excellent BBB ratings and a verifiable guarantee on their sites.

“There are ticket sites that pop up around the games and then disappear later,” she said. “Keep in mind that even if a website looks lovely, that’s no guarantee. Do your homework and make sure there’s actually a ‘there’ there.” One place to start: the “Check out a business or charity” link on the Better Business Bureau website.

With the Super Bowl tickets for sale on eBay, Craigslist, Twitter and in local newspapers, the challenge is figuring out if you’re getting a ticket that will be honored in Arlington at the stadium gate. Of course, not everyone on these are scammers, but it’s a good idea to start any search by reading the tips and advice posted by the Better Business Bureau and Craigslist. Tops among them: “Always pay with a credit card or other secure form of payment” and “Never wire funds via Western Union, Moneygram or any other wire service.”

“Super Bowl is an exciting time,” said Kopko. “But don’t let it get in the way of knowing what you’re dealing with.”

Get to the game and sleep tight
Super Bowl weekend airfares (including taxes and fees) to the Dallas-Fort Worth area are averaging $326 round trip, according to Travelocity's Jenn Gaines. “That’s compared to $314 on average to Miami for last year’s Super Bowl.” Hotel rates in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are averaging $187 per night. “That’s right on par with the average hotel rate for Super Bowl in Miami last year,” she said.

Many hotels are requiring a four-night minimum stay for Super Bowl weekend. If you don’t want to stay that long, though, shop around. There are more than 100,000 hotel rooms in the 12-city North Texas “Metroplex” area that includes Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington, so scarcity of rooms should not be a problem.

In fact, as of late last week, “Ten percent to 15 percent of the hotels in Arlington still have rooms available,” said Jay Burress, president of the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chairman of the Super Bowl host committee’s Hospitality Action Team.

To be safe, book your rooms through a travel professional, a recognized travel website or directly with a hotel. The North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee website also has an accommodations button that will take you to Fan Experiences, an official NFL partner that has its own reservation system for individuals and small groups.

Overall, be sure you understand payment and cancellation terms, the distance between the hotel and the stadium (North Texas is big) and reconfirm directly with the hotel before you leave home.

Secure souvenirs
Upwards of $100 million of officially licensed Super Bowl merchandise will probably be sold this year by authorized NFL shops online, in and around the stadium, at area hotels and throughout the region. There will also be 22 official NFL kiosks inside the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Lots of counterfeit and unlicensed items will also show up for sale online and on the streets, but a task force with representatives from the NFL, area police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents “is already out there working to combat that activity,” said Tiara Richard of the Arlington police.

Stay safe
The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will greet Super Bowl fans with videos of NFL highlights, live music and entertainment that will include Rowdy, the Dallas Cowboys mascot. The fun will start when fans hit the ground, but Alan Black, DFW’s Director of Public Safety, said arriving fans should remember that during the Super Bowl “it’s a good idea to be vigilant and to keep close track of your belongings.”

Pick-pockets are attracted to large gatherings, so “put your wallet, your tickets and other valuables in an inside coat pocket or in your front pocket,” said Richard. “During the 2010 World Series in Arlington, we had someone who had their game tickets stolen from their back pocket.”

Bruce McIndoe, president at iJET Intelligent Risk Systems, warns Super Bowl fans to pay attention to what’s going around them, not just the action on the field. “Drinking, crowds and unfamiliar areas all contribute to a higher likelihood for accidents, including slips, falls, bumps and even altercations. Stay aware and remove yourself quickly if a scuffle erupts.”

Before the game, McIndoe recommends that you and your family or friends choose a meeting spot in case you get separated and an alternate meeting spot away from the venue. If there’s an incident, “It’s likely you will not get a phone call or text message to work when everyone is trying to get on the system at the same time,” he said.

And no matter how exciting things get at the game, don’t let the partying get too far out of hand.

“There is a detention cell inside the stadium,” said Richard of the Arlington police.