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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Football fans aren’t the only ones looking forward to the upcoming Super Bowl game between the Steelers and the Packers. Cybercriminals are just as eager for the big event.

“Whether you watch it for the commercials or for the sport, the Super Bowl has become a huge national holiday,” Denise Richardson, an identity theft expert, tells MainStreet. “Any time you have a holiday, you have predators looking to take advantage of the holiday retail spike.” 

And there are plenty of fans whose excitement will cause them to let their guard down. 

“Fans are not necessarily being careful to follow what, at any other time, would be standard scam avoidance procedures, and they become easy pickings,” Richardson says.

To avoid getting cyber-sacked, MainStreet outlines the most common Super Bowl scams you need to watch out for.

Bogus tickets. The NFL, which warned fans about phony tickets back in December, advises consumers to purchase tickets only through Ticketmaster or the Official NFL Ticket Exchange, an online resale marketplace that verifies a ticket’s authenticity.

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You can check out this NFL blog post for more ways to tell a fake ticket from a real one. Still, it may be best to avoid third-party ticket sellers or online auction houses entirely, as counterfeit tickets can be rampant whenever there is a big event.

Phony sweepstakes. “It doesn't matter how much you want to see the game and its celebrations in person, don't click on an e-mail offer for game day tickets!” Richardson says.
Similarly, avoid clicking on Super Bowl sweepstakes offers, which may feature trips to the big game or other related prizes. These e-mails could be part of a larger scam to get you to fork over funds for a chance at tickets, or scammers could be enticing you to click on a link that will download malware or other viruses onto your computer.

Misleading Travel deals.
Earlier this week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Bill Ryan issued a warning to Steelers fans, urging them to be on the lookout for Super Bowl scams. In addition to bogus tickets and phony sweepstakes, Ryan said residents traveling to Dallas for the game should book their travel accommodations carefully.

“In past years … fans purchased hotel rooms that were inconveniently located, or were charged additional fees for services that they thought were included in the package, such as tickets to the game," Ryan said in the press release.

To avoid falling victim to these scams, Ryan suggests booking through a reputable travel agency, researching the hotel and its location before finalizing your deal and using a credit card to pay for the packages, as credit cards offer more protection if you need to dispute the charges. 

Consumers who spot any of these or other related scams can report them to the proper authorities. Cybercrimes can be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

What other scams are prevalent in the U.S.? Find out in MainStreet’s roundup of the most popular scams of 2010.

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