During the football playoff season, fans’ enthusiasm often manifests itself in the form of purchases of their favorite team’s merchandise.
The weeks leading up to the Super Bowl can get emotions high – and prices can seem high as well. So many fans go searching for bargains.
Unfortunately, some of those “bargains” that can be so alluring are cheaper for a reason: They are fakes.
That means the workmanship and the materials used to make the item will be of inferior quality, making that “great deal” quickly turn into a rip-off.
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Operation Team Player
The Better Business Bureau advises fans to be mindful of the abundance of counterfeit merchandise on the market and take precautions to avoid getting burned. How big a problem is it?
Last year’s bust of counterfeit sports merchandisers provided a window into the illegal business that showed how extensive the problem has become.
“Operation Team Player” was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other government agencies. They seized more than 397,000 phony sports clothing and memorabilia items, valued at $37.8 million.
The fake products were sold online, at flea markets and through street vendors. Reportedly the counterfeiters’ websites looked official, even going so far as using fake BBB logos to fool victims into believing them to be legitimate, honest businesses.
How to avoid rip-offs
Here are the BBB’s tips to help consumers protect themselves from the counterfeiters and scams that can be associated with them:
▪ Only shop in team-licensed stores and on reputable websites.
▪ When in doubt, visit the team’s official website. Either buy from there or look for the list of stores that are licensed to carry the team’s merchandise.
▪ If the website seems a little odd, perhaps with misspellings or awkwardly phrased language, think twice about doing business with it.
▪ Remember that even if you do not end up purchasing from a website, you can unwittingly download malware onto your computer just by clicking on links within the site.
▪ Check out a company at bbb.org and read the BBB Business Review to find out about others’ experiences with that company.
▪ Before buying from an eBay seller, look at their track record and read online reviews.
▪ For autographed memorabilia, request a certificate of authenticity.
▪ When buying jewelry or artwork, get an independent appraisal.
▪ As is always the case, buyers on Craigslist should be especially cautious of sports merchandise. Remember that just because something is advertised as “official” does not mean that it is.
If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.