How con artists exploit enthusiasm -- whether it's for the World Cup 2010 or for generating inventive ideas: Internet Scambusters #378
With just a few months till the June 11 kick-off of the soccer World Cup 2010 in South Africa, ticket scam artists and other crooks have already scored a goal.
We tell you how to avoid joining the thousands of world cup soccer fans who may already have been duped into paying for non-existent tickets or fooled into thinking they've won some sort of lottery.
In this Snippets issue, we also focus on another subject that aims to exploit individuals' enthusiasm -- invention promotion scams.
Let's check out today's Snippets...
Ticket and Lottery Scammers Score in World Cup 2010
Although World Cup 2010 means different things to different people (depending on your taste in sports), in the soccer world it means South Africa in June, when 32 nations, including the United States (Group C, if you're interested), meet to compete for the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) championship.
And, of course, it also means ticket scam time. You only have to look at this year's Winter Olympics Games in Vancouver and even the recent Miami Super Bowl for evidence that ticket scams for major events are still a big money spinner for the crooks.
Hundreds, possibly thousands of winter sports fans lost out in Vancouver after some of the major ticket resellers were hoodwinked into "buying" $3 million worth of tickets from a non-existent supplier. And Super Bowl ticket scam victims included a woman who sent a $2,000 money wire for tickets that never arrived.
Since this is a Snippets issue of Scambusters, this week we're also spotlighting another scam that targets a group of enthusiasts -- this time, inventors.
But first, those World Cup soccer scams...
Here at Scambusters, we warned in our special issue on the Top 10 Scams of 2010 that World Cup 2010 would be a target.
Now, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a ticket scam alert for the World Cup 2010, warning of both bogus websites and forged tickets.
And British police say they have closed down at least 100 phony websites so far. They believe thousands of fans may already have handed over their money to these soccer scam artists.
Other sites, says the FTC, offer packages providing hotels and transportation but don't actually have any tickets -- though you may assume they do.
According to the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) -- a group of consumer protection agencies from around the world including the FTC -- consumers can take several steps to avoid ticket sales scams for major sports events.
- Check with the event organizer, promoter, or venue where the event will be held to learn how and when tickets are being sold. FIFA's website has specific procedures for distributing and validating tickets to the World Cup 2010.
- Be aware that the official logo and trademarks (or lookalikes) of the event can be imitated to try to convince you that a bogus website, or ticket, is official.
- Read what others say about the seller. Search the Internet to find out about other people's experiences.
- Be skeptical of sites that say they "guarantee" tickets. Some companies sell package deals without having the tickets in hand. Even if the seller intends to get the tickets later, they may not be able to.
- Always print a copy of your order for your files.
Reports are also surfacing about the sale of fake World Cup lottery tickets and advance fee lottery scams in which victims are told they've won a prize in a World Cup 2010 draw but can only collect if they pay taxes and handling charges first.
You can find more information about lottery scams in an earlier Scambusters issue: Lottery scams, 809 area code scam, and credit card insurance fraud.
Beware also of emails and online promotions that say you can "watch live games online." They offer supposed subscriptions that you pay for and/or tell you to download a special High Def video player.
You end up either out of pocket or with a piece of scareware or spyware on your PC.
There may well be some genuine broadcasters offering streaming coverage of the championship. Others may show recordings or highlights.
Our advice is to check with known, reputable outfits like ESPN and other major TV companies that offer streaming services.
Finally, the experience of at least one couple whose son was in the Winter Olympics provides another timely warning of a possible scam that could show up in South Africa for the World Cup 2010.
They paid $8,000 to rent a condo that didn't exist. The same con artists apparently also took a $2,500 deposit from another victim. Best to rent property through reputable agencies.
7 Tips On Invention Marketing Scams
Right now as you're reading this, there's a whole army of creative people laboring away in their garages and workshops to develop the next big thing.
They're inventors. Some of them make a living by developing clever new ideas and products.
Others just dream about success without really knowing how to achieve it. And it's this group, reckoned to number around 25,000 every year, that is vulnerable to unscrupulous invention marketing companies claiming to be able to help them realize that dream.
Let's stress at the outset that there are a number of highly reputable and successful invention marketers out there.
But there are plenty of others who just want to cash in on your hopes. Their favorite tricks: charging inflated fees for registering patents or claiming they know how to sell your ideas to interested manufacturers (for a fee of up to $10,000!) when they don't.
According to John Dudas, director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, up to $200 million is spent every year on worthless patent services.
And successful inventor Don Brown, who created the Ab Roller exercise equipment, says: "Most new inventors feel like they need to secure a patent right away as they are afraid someone will steal their idea. These invention scam companies know this and take full advantage of the inventor's fear of losing protection for their idea by charging inflated fees for needless services."
If you're an inventor, or know one, here are 7 tips to help avoid the scammers:
- Realize that few inventions ever really make it -- so don't be taken in just because someone enthuses about your idea.
- Beware of "free" information packages used as lures to open the way for selling marketing evaluation services. Always ask for the fee of all service costs.
- Know that having a patent on your idea does not -- by itself -- necessarily increase the likelihood of success. You may well need a patent at the right time, but make sure you get the best advice from an attorney who is an expert in the process and can advise you properly so you don't waste your money.
- Check the credentials of any firm you are thinking of dealing with; ask for references and verifiable examples of products they have helped market. Ask about their rejection rate. (Tip: A high rejection rate is better because it's more likely accurate!)Check them too with your city or state consumer protection departments and Attorney General. The FTC also maintains a list of invention marketing companies that are under investigation.
- Avoid paying fees of any sort if you can, especially anything in advance. Agreeing to pay a commission or royalties on a successful sale is a safer route.
- But if you do sign up for a commission or royalties agreement, have it checked over by an attorney who specializes in this area and a financial expert to make sure you're not giving away too much.
- Don't be wowed by anyone offering to promote your product at a trade show. They're just after your money for their time and are usually not interested in whether they sell or not.
There's lots more information on a dedicated FTC page devoted to invention promotion companies.
Did you spot that the two scams highlighted in this week's issue have a common thread? They exploit people's enthusiasm. You see the same sort of things with collectors: enthusiasm can get in the way of common sense.
When making financial decisions, it's as well to set that enthusiasm aside for a moment. Of course, once you safely take your seat at the World Cup 2010 you're allowed to go wild. 🙂
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.