Shopping for sports team merchandise? Research the company first.

Whether you’re a huge sports fan or just looking for one, sports memorabilia is a huge market that can make a great gift or collection, but can also create challenges. The dust settles after an exciting football season – both at the college and national level – and scammers know that authentic used in-game and/or autographed items can fetch big bucks, especially for items commemorating big games. .

Your Better Business Bureau reminds buyers that when looking for a team jersey, commemorative memorabilia, or other sports memorabilia, you should be very careful about counterfeits. When shopping online, it can be hard to believe that a seller or product is genuine.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to help you when buying sports memorabilia:

“Used in game” items are highly sought after. Buyers value items that have seen on-field or field action as treasured pieces of sports history. Consumers should be aware that there is a significant difference between “used by the game” and “produced by the game”. For example, a game-issued jersey was designed to be worn by the player, but may not have been worn. There’s nothing wrong with selling this type of game-issued item – unless the seller scuffs it up and tries to pass it off as a used game at a higher price.

Autographs are even trickier. With the use of the autopen, manufacturers can reproduce ink signatures hundreds of times. Again, there is nothing wrong with selling self-signed items as long as they are not misrepresented as personally signed by the player and priced accordingly. Buyers should also watch out for online listings that describe items as “hand-signed” without specifying which hand signed them. This might be technically correct but still very misleading.

Outright counterfeits can be the hardest to spot, and this problem has plagued collectors for decades. If you don’t have time to become an autograph authentication expert, but still want to make purchases, here are some steps you can take.

How the scam works

Victims of this scam usually find fake sporting goods through a social media advertisement or a quick web search. These scam online stores have great photos and cheap prices, which makes them believable.

Victims report that at first the purchase seems normal. The site charges his credit card and sends a confirmation email. However, the weeks pass and the jersey never arrives. The anticipation of having a memory of a favorite team is suddenly dashed when the victim attempts to contact customer service. They quickly find that neither the company nor the product exists.

A disappointed fan reported the following to Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker: “This company advertised the sale of collectible sporting goods in special boxes. Each box was supposed to contain a number of team-related items. like a jersey, signed football or mini helmet., etc. I paid $69.99 for the top box of Chicago Bears items, what I actually got was a cheap jersey unbranded, an NFL keychain, and a face mask. I went to the website to make sure I hadn’t read anything wrong, and the site wasn’t working. We didn’t expect to be victimized. a scam and not getting what we paid for.”

How to Avoid Sporting Goods Scams

— Beware of offers that seem too good to be true. If the price of an item, collectible or not, is significantly lower than it is on the sites of other well-known retailers, it is a red flag that it could be a scam.

– Find out about the company before you buy. If the business is unfamiliar, check BBB.org to see if it has a BBB business profile or BBB’s Scam Tracker to see if someone else has reported it as a scam. Look for contact information on the website, such as a phone number or physical address, as well as a strong social media presence to help you determine if the business really exists.

— Never transfer money or use a prepaid debit card as a means of payment. Both types of payment are often requested by scammers and once the money runs out there is no way to get the money back. Instead, shop online with a credit card and only on secure (https) websites.

— Check the certificates of authenticity. Certificates of Authenticity are standard for souvenir purchases, especially for big ticket items. So it is likely that crooks will try to provide fake ones. A valid certificate must show the qualifications and full contact details of the issuer. Before trusting a certificate, make sure it contains complete and correct information about the person who issued it, and then make sure it’s a legitimate, reputable authority. If investing in a cheaper purchase that is not offered with a certificate of authenticity, the buyer should always request a written statement from the seller as to the authenticity and origin of the item. It is also essential to establish and obtain a written statement of the physical condition of the item before purchasing it.

— Be especially careful at charity auctions: some scammers target charities with “donations” of fake memorabilia. When considering bidding on an item at a charity auction, be extremely vigilant and watch out for suspicious price valuations and shady authentications. If in doubt about an item, consider making an outright donation to the charity rather than an auction purchase.

— Look for a money-back guarantee: If possible, work with a reseller who can guarantee a full refund of your purchase if you ever find out it was a fraud. Check all terms and conditions of the sale, especially the limitations, before purchasing the item.

For more information, you can subscribe to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Alert emails for weekly updates on the latest scams. Learn more about online shopping scams at BBB.org to protect you from fake products and online sellers.

Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau serving southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia. The Better Business Bureau can be reached at 423-266-6144.