COLUMBUS – With schools forced to restrict entry to events at the onset of the pandemic, they turned to online streaming of games so that people could watch from the comfort of their living rooms.
While many attendance restrictions have been lifted, schools are still streaming games. Unfortunately, the scammers have followed. The scammers’ goal is to capture personal information, including credit card and Social Security numbers, as fans log in to watch their team play.
How the scam works
A fan wants to watch the local high school’s football game, or their niece’s travel softball team is playing in a tournament out of state. They search on social media to find a link where the game might be streamed, and sure enough, a fellow fan has posted a link where anyone can go to watch for free!
It’s almost time for the game to start, and the viewer eagerly clicks the link.
The next screen requires signing up for the streaming service, so the fan enters his/her name and email… and then is asked for a credit card number and potentially more sensitive information. This is where BBB is throwing a flag on the play.
BBB President Judy Dollison tells fans, “Scammers infiltrate social media with links to fake streams. The posts will even tag the schools in order to make it appear legitimate, hoping that they can score when a would-be viewer enters their personal identification information and pays to watch the event. But the fan loses this game every time – fans don’t get to watch the game because the scammer has not set up a stream.” Instead, whatever data they entered may be compromised.
Better Business Bureau reminds fans to do their research when looking to watch a high school sporting event online.
“Fans need to remain skeptical and on alert when searching for the stream of a high school contest,” said Dollison. “The easiest way is to check the school’s website or call to see if they even offer live streaming. Some schools do, others don’t.”
Twitter is a predominant source of scams. Fans should note account names and photos to see if they align or are random. They should also vet follower/following numbers. Low follower base indicates a new account that was just started, likely for the purpose of scams. Fans should also dive into the content of posts – if it’s nothing but tweets to stream games, that’s another penalty that should trigger wariness.
Last year, the scamming was so prevalent, state associations that oversee high school athletics in New Mexico, Indiana, and North Carolina issued warnings about the fake streams.
BBB offers these tips for safe streaming online:
-Research any website before paying any money or entering any information.
-Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at BBB.org.
-Pay by credit card whenever possible in case of challenging the payment.
-Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “HTTPS://.” Fans may also see a picture of a small closed lock in the screen’s lower right-hand corner.
-Be cautious before clicking through to links included in social media posts, unsolicited text messages, or emails. Clicking on unfamiliar links can place fans at risk for malware or identity theft.
Check out BBB’s Social Media Scams page for more examples of scammers that lurk on social channels.
To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
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Info from Better Business Bureau