New England fans are celebrating the Patriot's Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks. After Malcolm Butler's last minute interception sealed the Patriots' victory, football fans across Massachusetts will be looking to pick up jerseys, hats, and other memorabilia to show support for their winning team. However, as fake memorabilia continues to flood the market, fans may have to search carefully to make sure they are getting what they paid for.
Ahead of the Super Bowl, federal authorities have reportedly confiscated almost $20 million worth of counterfeit sports memorabilia. Operation Team Player, in coordination with the National Football League (NFL), found thousands of fake jerseys, hats, t-shirts, including fake Patriots memorabilia. According to NFL legal counsel Delores DiBella, in partnering with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they were "working hard to protect fans and prevent them from being scammed by criminals seeking to profit from the public's passion for the NFL, their home teams, and Super Bowl XLIX."
Operation Team Player began nearly a year ago, and has resulted in at least 50 arrests. Authorities identified shipments of counterfeit materials imported into the country and sent through the mail. Working with local law enforcement, authorities further investigated stores, online vendors, and street vendors identified additional fake memorabilia. According to ICE Director, Sarah Saldana, counterfeiting is not a game, and is not a victimless crime, regardless of whether it involves jerseys, airbags or aspirin.
In a run up to the the February 1st game in Glendale, Arizona, authorities warned of fake tickets to the game itself. They advise buying tickets from a reliable source or website. DiBella even cautioned against tickets that appear legitimate. "Even if it looks real it could have been reported lost or stolen, which means the person holding it will not be granted into the stadium," said Dibella.
NFL tickets are a hot commodity, with championship games and the Super Bowl bringing the highest prices. Tickets to the Super Bowl were averaging over $4,800 for a single seat to watch the big game live. These high ticket prices are an opportunity for thieves to cash in on fans' fervor. One Plymouth Pats fan reported losing $1,800 in a fake ticket scam. The online interaction required him to send the money for the ticket via wire service, which can be a red flag.
The Better Business Bureau of Central New England also warned of fake tickets. According to Nancy Cahalen, president of the local BBB chapter, "the fact that the Patriots are once again heading to the Super Bowl makes the possibility of getting schemed by fake ticket sellers a very local worry." They recommend checking up on the seller/broker on the BBB's website.
Before the AFC Championship game between the Pats and Indianapolis Colts, the police arrested several people in Somerville for selling fake tickets. As a result, the team reminded fans they should only use the official Patriots ticket office and Ticketmaster. Authentic tickets have a number of security features, including holograms, ink that glows under a blacklight, and embossed lettering.