Just last year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized almost $180 million worth of counterfeit merchandise. Unfortunately, there's still so much more of the fake stuff out there and it can lead to unsuspecting fans getting taken for a ride.
"Got some great news that we were having a boy, and came home all excited, father to be, and went online, looked at a bunch of sports memorabilia, trading card sights, just to fill up a room for some good memorabilia," said Jim Quarantillo, a victim of sports memorabilia scam.
Like Quarantillo, many of us want to share our passion for sports with our kids. He thought he had hit a homerun.
"Looked like a very reputable site, there was nothing really alarming about it at all, they accepted pay pal, or all major credit cards." he said.
Quarantillo forked over $1,200 for several items including trading cards and an autographed Derek Jeter ball. But as time went on, he knew he'd been scammed.
"It was probably about ninety or 100 days after order, that I went online and the website was down, called them, the number was disconnected, and there was no way, shape or form to get in touch with the sellers," he said.
Every year thousands of victims nationwide spend big bucks buying memorabilia on sports websites. In some case, they get only a portion of what they've ordered or nothing at all.
United States Postal Inspectors, who investigate many of these crimes, suggest you know the estimated values of the items you are looking to get . Also, keep in my the old adage: if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
"Do some research, it never hurts to reach out to your local Better Business Bureau. You never want to give out your credit card number to some random person walking down the street -- that is basically what you are doing -- by giving out your credit card number on the Internet," explained T.W. Brown, a US Postal Inspector.
Quarantillo's bank refunded the $1,200 he lost, but not all victims are as lucky. Ironically, Quarantillo is a partner of an information security company.
"Internet fraud can happen to anybody, it's not just the people who understand how the attacks are or how they are structured," he admitted.
Investigators and consumer advocates recommend using credit cards, not debit cards or money orders, for online purchases. As Channel 4 crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson often reminds viewers, credit cards offer dispute rights making it easier to reverse a fraudulent charge, whereas debit cards can instantly clean out your checking account.
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