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Fans warned of NCAA Tournament ticket-buying pitfalls

AUSTIN, March 21, 2013-- As the NCAA March Madness tournament heats up this week, Consumer Action and Fan Freedom warn fans to use caution when purchasing tickets to avoid buying fraudulent or nontransferable tickets.

“Because the NCAA sells March Madness tickets almost one year in advance in multi-game ticket packets, fans need flexibility to trade, re-sell and gift unused tickets. March Madness is always an exciting time for sports fans and thousands will be able to cheer on their teams in person this Friday in Austin, and again next week, in Arlington. But ticket buyers need to watch closely and make sure they know exactly what they are purchasing,” said Fan Freedom Consumer Advocate Elizabeth Owen. “The last thing we want to happen is someone getting misled into buying different tickets other than were advertised, or tickets that can’t be transferred.”

Second and third round regional Division I conference games are scheduled March 22 and 24 at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center. Friday, March 22 holds four exciting second round games at the Erwin Center, including Miami (2) vs. Pacific (15), Florida (3) vs. Northwestern State (14), UCLA (6) vs. Minnesota (11) and Illinois (7) vs. Colorado (10).

Arlington will be hosting the South Regional Championships, which consist of the Sweet Sixteen semifinals and the Elite Eight semifinals, at Cowboys Stadium on March 29th and March 31st.

“We all have the right to purchase tickets to watch and support our favorite teams and we should be able to give away or resell our tickets if our teams do not advance in the tournament,” said Linda Sherry, Director of National Priorities at Consumer Action. “Anti-consumer policies like restricted ticketing strip fans of our freedom to give away, buy, or sell tickets.”

Fan Freedom offers fans planning to attend the games seven tips to avoid ticket-buying pitfalls:

Use Reliable Sellers: Beware of fly-by-night ticket sellers. If you're unsure whether a company is legitimate, check its ratings with the Better Business Bureau. If purchasing from a ticket broker, check to see if they are members of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, whose Code of Ethics requires members to adhere to basic consumer protections.

Check your ticket vendor’s guarantee policy: For example, websites like Stub Hub, TicketsNow, Ace Tickets and All-Shows guarantee every ticket sold on their sites and will replace them or provide refunds to consumers if they receive the wrong tickets or their tickets are invalid. Craigslist and other online classifieds sites do not offer such guarantees; it’s “buyer beware” when shopping there.

Pay Attention to URLs: When buying tickets directly from a venue, check the website’s URL to ensure that you don’t get duped by an imposter. Remember, even if a website looks like the official site, it may be bogus.

Read the Fine Print: Just because you bought a ticket doesn’t mean you can give it away. Some concerts and sporting events sell restricted paperless tickets, requiring the buyer to show up at the venue and present the purchasing credit card and photo ID. With such tickets, the buyer does not receive a physical ticket and cannot easily transfer these tickets. If your team loses in an earlier round, you would not be able to unload your ticket on a fan whose team advances.

Know the Rules: Some venues limit the number of tickets you can buy. If you’re buying tickets on behalf of friends, make sure you know the maximum number of tickets allotted or your order may be cancelled without notice.

Buy with a Credit Card: Regardless of where you buy tickets, be sure to use a credit card so you can dispute any unfair or unauthorized charges. Before entering your credit card information online, be sure the site has "https://" at the beginning of the website address. This means the site is encrypted and safer for use.

Be prepared to pay additional fees: Unlike airline tickets, which are now required by law to disclose all taxes and additional fees upfront, the ticket price listed at the start of the purchasing process will likely not be your final price.

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