Sports Scam Artists Play for High Stakes

From online gambling to door-to-door collections, a sports scam lurks at just about every corner: Internet Scambusters #360

For most of us, sports signal fun and excitement, but a clever sports scam can quickly put a stop to that.

The advent of the Internet has significantly increased the incidence of the sports betting scam and the sale of bogus memorabilia.

But you might just as easily encounter the sports scammer at your front door. So today’s issue focuses on the most common current sports scams — both online and offline.

Let’s check out today’s…

Sports Scam Artists Play for High Stakes

Since probably more than half the population has an interest in sports, it’s no surprise that various types of sports scams are equally widespread.

In fact, the growth of the Internet has contributed significantly to the increasing incidence of one of the most common variations — the sports betting scam.

This, in turn, is part of a larger category of sports scams we might call, for want of a better term, sports money scams. These encompass everything relating to claims you can make easy money from sports games and activities.

Let’s take a closer look at these and the other most common sport scams.

Sports money scams

As we suggest above, sports betting scams are common and on the rise, masquerading under such terms as sports arbitrage, sports betting, sports wagering, sports tipping or sports trading.

They happen when someone tries to fix a match or race result (see “insider scams” below) or when individuals are fooled into believing they can buy into some sort of “secret” system or inside information that guarantees a win.

Sometimes, these so-called systems really exist but they don’t produce the claimed success rate. For instance, sports arbitrage involves placing bets on both teams in a match with different betting companies who offer different odds.

Usually you have to “invest” in a betting syndicate to participate or pay hefty upfront costs for the relevant information, or you may have to buy software that is supposed to help. If you win at all, it’s unlikely to offset these costs.

Other times, victims are simply hoodwinked into handing over their cash for nothing. It’s a straightforward con — you pay your money and never hear another word.

Particularly insidious is the so-called sportsbook scam, based on Internet versions of the sportsbook operations found in Las Vegas casinos, where you can bet on just about anything.

Again, the sportsbook scam is simply a multi-million dollar money-grabbing trick. You sign up, pay to join, place your bets, then get nothing back.

Action: Let’s face it, if these systems really worked, their inventors would be using them to win a fortune without selling them to you. Same goes for supposed “insider betting information.”

And if you play sportsbooks, check their authenticity with

In any case, if you choose to gamble (which we definitely recommend against), know that the odds are always against you winning and that you should only use money you are prepared to lose.

Sports insider scams

This crime is in part related to the sports betting scam we discussed above. It happens when players or other members of a sports organization — from football and athletics to horse and motor racing — agree to “throw” a game or race result.

Usually this is so they or others with whom they’re in cahoots with can clean up on a bet they placed.

The European soccer body UEFA has just disclosed it is investigating 40 cases of suspected match-fixing, and one UK soccer player confessed in his recent autobiography to placing bets on how quickly the ball would be kicked out of play in a match in which he was doing the kicking!

Insiders are also active in the next category…

Bogus ticket sales

There are two main types of this sports scam — both exploiting scarcity of tickets, particularly for leading clubs and special events:

  • Non-existent tickets. On a giant scale, the worst example of this was the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where thousands of enthusiasts lost millions of dollars applying for tickets on bogus websites. No doubt we’ll see the same for the 2012 Olympics in London. But on a much smaller scale, this sports scam happens all the time with people offering to sell tickets, sometimes costly season tickets, which they simply don’t own. In one recent incident, a well-known basketball player was charged after taking advance money for tickets he didn’t have.
  • Forged tickets, often on sale outside sports grounds or traded on online auction and classified advertisement sites. Victims usually don’t find out they’ve been conned until they try to get into the sports venue.

Action: In both cases, the only safeguard against this sports scam is always to buy your tickets from official sources.

Phony support schemes

There’s a huge range of this type of sports scam — from fraudulent door-to-door charity collections and magazine subscriptions supposedly to support school and college teams, to soliciting of advertising for non-existent programs and brochures.

This is a real headache because many sports groups do depend heavily on public and business donations for their survival.

Action: Our advice here, as with other charitable fundraising scams, is that unless you’re 100% sure of the credentials of whoever is soliciting your money, don’t give to the individual but donate directly to the organization they claim to be working for.

Bogus equipment and memorabilia

From designer label knock-offs to forged autographs, this is another type of sports scam that has seen phenomenal growth in the era of the Internet.

Recent examples have included the sale of cheap Chinese-made golf clubs badged with one of the top brand names in the business, and websites offering “official” club football jerseys that turn out to be not only “not official,” but don’t actually exist.

Bogus sports collector cards and photographs bearing forged signatures are among hundreds of types of fraudulent memorabilia now changing hands on the Internet.

In one famous sports scam case, crooks conned collectors out of more than $100 million for photos with forged signatures, before they were busted by the FBI in the year 2000.

Sadly, even Certificates of Authenticity that accompany some memorabilia are as fraudulent as the products they’re supposed to vouch for.

We covered this subject more broadly in an earlier article, The 7 Most Common Antiques Scams and How to Avoid Them, that we encourage you to check out.

Action: You can’t buy designer labels for the price of fakes — so don’t think you can. And if you’re a memorabilia fan, make sure you know your stuff — and the dealer — before spending good money to add to your collection.

If a seller can’t provide verifiable provenance of authenticity, don’t buy without understanding the risks.

Nigerian and lottery sports scams

Well, no scam collection would be complete without a few Nigerian and lottery scams. And that’s certainly the case here.

Lottery scams usually take the form of an email message (but sometimes notifications also arrive by mail) saying you have won money in a draw connected to a big sporting event, like the Olympic Games.

Recent lottery sports scams have included the names of big companies involved in sports event sponsorship, in an effort to increase their credibility.

Nigerian-type sports scams involve requests to sporting goods manufacturers to supply equipment which is never paid for, and advance payment scams using bogus checks to book sporting venues, for which the victim is then asked to remit part of the payment to a third party.

These are just a handful of the most popular of the scores of sports scams currently doing the rounds.

We already know that sports are big business. Sadly it’s big business for the sports scam artists too!

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.