Don't get scammed with bogus playoff tix

BALTIMORE - Here's the good news, Orioles fans snatched up tickets for the Wild Card and Playoffs.  But that's also bad news because the games are officially sold out and if you're hitting the aftermarket options to get yourself a seat, that can be as risky as putting your fate in the hands of the Yankees.  Counterfeiters are working overtime to create bogus tickets as the O's head toward the postseason.

On a sleepy Wednesday afternoon, without the team even in town, business was brisk at the ticket window at Camden Yards.  Anxious fans were lined up looking for tickets to sit in the stands for the Birds final home games, but many are even more excited about the potential for the postseason.

Danielle Rosier was buying tickets for the team's last home stand, but also making plans for the playoffs.  She says, "Our children are O's fans and I think it would be exciting to see our home team go."

Three-year-old Lucia and six-year-old Gianni Rosier are as psyched as anyone in Baltimore to see the Orioles move on.  But because their mom doesn't have playoff tickets yet, she's going to have to take her chances with an aftermarket seller.  Rosier knows she'll have to be careful, "People will do anything to scam and make money so i guess you know you have to look out for fake tickets."

Counterfeiting is big business in the world of baseball, especially as the season winds down, the crowds heat up and the stakes get higher.  Greg Bader, Director of Communications for the Orioles, says, "Any time there's an increase in demand for any sporting event, you're going to see an increase in potential scams and fraud."

Bader says that while counterfeits weren't a huge problem for the team in the regular season, he knows the risk is higher as the Birds roll on and fans clamber for a chance to watch, "We are certainly worried and Major League Baseball is worried about possible counterfeit tickets and people who are unauthorized and selling tickets they simply don't have."

But that doesn't stop scammers.  Although Bader says Major League Baseball does a great job of securing the process, scammers are also skilled.  Baltimore-based security expert Bill Patterson with OpSec, a firm that secures tickets and licensed merchandise for the NFL, MLB and others, says what they don't have, they can easily fake or make with their own Orioles magic.  Patterson says, "A counterfeiter with desktop technology can pretty much create anything they want."

It's up to firms like OpSec to keep you from getting scammed.  From bar codes to holograms and even special ink, it's a constant battle to stay ahead of those who wish to profit from the fakes.  Patterson says he doesn't know what security is being used in this year's playoff tickets, but he's certain scammers will, "Counterfeiters want to get an early hand on the ticket so they can not only discover what security elements are in the ticket but replicate as many of those features as possible to be able to pass them to the end consumer and the gate official."

A scammer's success in passing off tickets as real depends on how much time they get to make them look authentic.  Patterson says many organizations and team hold off sending tickets until a few days out to keep scammers in the dark as long as possible.  He says once the tickets are out, you need to know what a fake looks like, citing these red flags, "If you notice colors are out of registration or that inks tend to smudge.  I've seen tickets where the edges have been manually cut with a pair of scissors."

You should also check out the paper the tickets are printed on.  Patterson says it shouldn't split along the edges.  Bader with the Orioles also points out a big warning sign for when you're buying playoff seats, "When these are printed, there's no dates or times on them because the postseason schedule hasn't been settled."

Once the postseason schedule is set, Orioles fans have faith their team will be on it.  But that doesn't mean they should trust just anyone ready to sell them a ticket.

Experts say online sites like craigslist are very risky and your best bet is to go with reputable, established companies like Stub Hub, which is endorsed as a licensed seller by the Orioles.  The team's website would also be the most trustworthy option, although their supply of seats has dried up.  Bader emphasizes that additional tickets may become available if Major League Baseball or a rival team releases seats into the system.

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