beware counterfeit ticketsIt's college football bowl season and the formula's ripe once again for scammers to swoop in and take advantage of amped-up fans in search of hard-to-find tickets.

Warnings have already been issued about counterfeit tickets for the Rose Bowl, Sun Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. A few weeks ago, concern about the prevalence of phony tickets for the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome led to the use of a special window for fans to verify they were holding real tickets.Both Oregon and Wisconsin sent out warnings to fans about fake tickets and rip-off artists. Oregon is playing Auburn on Jan. 10 in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. Wisconsin is playing TCU in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

Repeated calls and emails to The National Collegiate Athletic Association's press office were not returned.

Scams are common, especially in the form of counterfeit tickets, either from online sites like Craigslist and eBay, or from ticket scalpers and online agencies that do not deliver. Some of the tickets look very realistic, thanks to color printers and photo editing programs.

"Scam artists see major sporting events like bowl games as an opportunity to make money," Randall Hoth, president of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau said in a statement. "Unfortunately, buyers need to beware."

Wisconsin fans have been scammed before. In 1994, nearly 10,000 Badger fans made the long journey to California after purchasing a ticket package, only to discover that they did not have legitimate tickets to the game.

Officials offer these tips to protect yourself against spending money for a football game you'll never see.
  • While purchasing tickets online, always use a credit card or PayPal, so that charges can be disputed. Ask for a picture of the ticket, verify it using the venue's seating chart, and get a receipt.
  • Confirm that the section, row and seat on your ticket corresponds with a location in the stadium.
  • Never wire money or give out personal account information to individuals you do not know.
  • Never leave the website to finish a transaction; you will lose protection a website like eBay provides.
  • Try to buy from someone who is local and has a good history of satisfying customers. Check other consumers' feedback before purchasing tickets from the seller.
  • Get the seller's real name and contact information.
  • Never go alone to pick up tickets purchased from someone online, and always meet in a public place. The "seller" knows when and where you're going to be, and that you're carrying a lot of cash. He/she may be setting you up to get robbed.

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