Consumer protection panel warns against Super Bowl ticket scams

Kurt Montanye was hoping to win the lottery this week. The New England Patriots season ticket holder
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Kurt Montanye was hoping to win the lottery this week.

The New England Patriots season ticket holder was banking on his seat being among the ones selected at random for a spot at Super Bowl XLII Feb.3 in Arizona. But when he checked the team’s Web site Monday evening, he learned a trip to the big game wasn’t in the cards.

“It was kind of a bummer,” he said.

Montanye, of Saratoga Springs, is in good company.

Thousands of football fans would pay to be there in person at the showdown between the record-shattering New England Patriots and the New York Giants. Add to the mix the balmy Glendale, Ariz., temperatures and you’ve got a blockbuster sporting event, explained NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

“There’s always the demand for Super Bowl tickets regardless, but there is unprecedented demand for this year’s tickets,” he said Monday.

The mad scramble for tickets has surged to the extent that just one of the roughly 70,000 seats at University of Phoenix Stadium is selling for upwards of $3,000. Ticket holders offering up their seats through the online service Stubhub.com were selling premium spots near the 50-yard line for $14,707 apiece — and that’s before air fare or lodging.

Demand has grown so much that the New York state Consumer Protection Board on Monday issued a warning to fans urging them to be on the lookout for counterfeit tickets and shady sellers. Officials fear demand could spark scams ranging from phony tickets to Super Bowl travel packages that exclude tickets to the game.

“The Internet can provide a platform for dishonest people to take advantage of fan exuberance,” Mindy Bockstein, executive director of the Consumer Protection Board, said in a prepared statement. “We are advising consumers to be careful with their hard-earned money if they decide to shop online for Super Bowl tickets.”

On average, McCarthy said, between 50 and 70 bogus tickets are recovered during each Super Bowl, largely from fans duped by forgers. During the 2006 game in Jacksonville, Fla., at least 75 people tried to enter with counterfeit tickets; outside the stadium gates the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office seized 146 counterfeit tickets and made 27 arrests, according to published reports.

“The Super Bowl is the most desirable event for fans,” McCarthy said. “So, too, is it for counterfeiters.”

But with the rise of online second-hand ticket sales, Bockstein said, fans today need to concern themselves about more than just forgeries. She cautioned fans to be wary of online auctions, classified ads and bulletin board sites boasting ticket prices far below what reputable services are offering.

“Though some Web sites may be enticing, be careful so you don’t fall victim to ads specifically designed to lure unsuspecting purchasers,” she said. “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Among other tips, the Consumer Protection Board advises fans to get any deal in writing up front and to ask detailed questions about the offer. Also, the board urges consumers to buy from vendors that guarantee ticket authenticity, secure transactions and on-time delivery. Above all, fans should never consider a payment in cash or any other untraceable exchange.

In the run-up to the Super Bowl, Stubhub takes extra measures to ensure buyers are getting exactly what they bargained for, said Sean Pate, a spokesman. All sellers are authorized by Stubhub in advance and must ship tickets to the company intermediary before a purchase is made; he said all tickets are distributed in Arizona on the day of the game.

With an average ticket price of $4,400, Pate said, Super Bowl XLII already ranks sixth among Stubhub’s all-time sales.

And with 12 days of sales remaining, he said, the game could conceivably become the top grossing event in company history.

“There’s too much expense at hand,” he said of the sales. “You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars in some cases, so we take all the precautions we can.”

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