Here in Titletown, we know sports memorabilia is big business. But if you're shopping online, how do you know if it's authentic?
Turns out, bogus memorabilia is big business, too. US Immigration and Customs officials report almost $180 million in counterfeit merchandise was seized last year.
Jim Quarantillo, like many of us, wants to share his passion for sports with his kids.
"Came home all excited. 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 sites, just to fill up a room for some good memorabilia."
Quarantillo thought he'd hit a home run. He forced over $1,200 for several items, including trading cards and an autographed Derek Jeter ball.
But as the time dragged on, he knew he'd been scammed.
"It was probably about 90 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."
Every year, thousands of victims nationwide spend big bucks buying memorabilia on sports web sites.
In some cases they get only a portion of what they've ordered or nothing at all.
US postal inspectors, who investigate many of these crimes, suggest you know the estimated values of the items you're looking for and keep in mind the old adage "If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
"Do some research," postal inspector T.W. Brown recommends. "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."
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 said.
Investigators and consumer advocates recommend using credit cards for online purchases -- not debit cards or money orders.
Credit cards offer dispute rights, making it easier to reverse a fraudulent charge, whereas a debit card and instantly clean out your checking account.
More tips to avoid buying from a fraudulent site:
Look for contact information on the site, particularly a mailing address or phone number for customer inquiries
Beware sites that look amateurish or have numerous grammar and spelling errors, an indication the seller is in a foreign country or not an adult
Beware blurry or distorted photographs. Is that autograph hard to read? Don't be afraid to ask the seller for additional photos or to fax you a copy of a Certificate of Authenticity.
Do a "Whois?" look-up of the seller's web site (click here). Look for the creation date and expiration date of the web site. For example:
If the web site was created a few months ago or is due to expire in less than a year, those may be warning flags. A company that intends to stay in business usually registers a domain for more than one year.
Check out the business with the Better Business Bureau (click here)
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