The Better Business Bureau is warning basketball fans everywhere to not let their mourning cloud their judgment. The tragic death of Kobe Bryant is likely to generate scams exploiting fans’ eagerness for information and memorabilia. BBB has seen this happen numerous times in the past when celebrities have died unexpectedly and is warning consumers to be on the lookout for scams mentioning the Lakers star and his daughter, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
Spear phishing emails are directed towards an individual, organization or business with a catchy headline. The sender claims to be from a reputable news organization capitalizing on trending news with an exclusive video, image or document they want to share with you. There is typically a link that will lead the user to a malicious website if they click on it.
- Look at the sender’s email address before clicking on anything in the email. If it’s someone you’re not familiar with, delete it.
- Don’t click links in any email unless you are positive they go to a reputable address. Hover over the link to see where it will take you.
Click-bait is a sensationalized post about trending news items highlighting exclusive, breaking or urgent news inciting people to quite literally, click on it. The description uses words like “amaze,” “shocking” or “never seen before footage.” Once clicked, the reader is taken to a site that may allow cybercriminals to hijack your account or steal personal information.
- Don’t take the bait. Stay away from promotions of “exclusive,” “shocking” or “sensational” footage. If it sounds too outlandish to be true, it is probably a scam.
- Hover over a link to see its true destination. Before you click, mouse over the link to see where it will take you. Don’t click on links leading to unfamiliar websites.
- Don’t trust your “friends” online. It might not actually be your friends who are “liking” or sharing scam links to photos. Their account may have been hacked, and scammers could be using another tactic called “clickjacking.” Clickjacking is a technique that scammers use to trick you into clicking on social media links that you would not usually click on.
Phony sports memorabilia began flooding the internet immediately following Bryant’s death. Lifelong fans are eager to purchase items that they can remember Bryant’s legacy by, however, scammers are seeing this as an opportunity to make money. 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.
- Research the seller: As with all forms of business, reputation and reliability are key. Working with a reputable dealer is your best bet for getting an authentic product. Check to see if the seller is BBB Accredited and read customer complaints and reviews on BBB.org. Look online for customer feedback—negative reviews can be a bad sign, even if there are just a few.
- Check the price range: Unfortunately for bargain hunters, memorabilia sold at unusually low prices are probably not the real deal. Before you shop, set a fixed budget to avoid spending more money on collectibles than you’re able to afford. Then, look up items similar to the ones you’re considering, and get an idea of how rare they are and how much they generally cost. Be suspicious of prices way below that average. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Double-check COAs: Certificates of authenticity (COAs) are the norm for memorabilia purchases, especially for costly items —so it’s likely that scammers will try to provide fake ones. A valid COA should state the qualifications and complete contact information of the issuer. Online auction sites are full of fraudulent COAs that have fake contact details or none at all, meaning they have no worth or trace-ability. Before you trust a COA, make sure it contains full and correct details on who issued it, and then make sure they’re a legitimate and reputable authority. If investing in a less expensive purchase that is not offered with a COA, the buyer should still request a written representation from the seller about the authenticity and origin of the item. It is also essential to establish and get a written statement about the item’s physical condition before you purchase it.
- Take extra care at charity auctions: Some scammers target charities by providing “donations” of fake memorabilia. When considering a bid for an item at a charity auction, be extra vigilant and watch out for suspicious price valuations and shady authentications. When in doubt about an item, consider making a pure donation to the charity rather than an auction purchase.
- Pay securely: It’s a big red flag if the seller insists on wire transfers, prepaid cards, or any other payment method that can’t be traced or disputed once it’s gone through. Use a credit card if you can since that form of payment typically provides more safeguards to consumers. It always helps to keep good records of the purchase transaction; in case you need to exercise the option to dispute a payment.
- Seek a money-back guarantee: If possible, work with a dealer who can guarantee a full refund of your purchase if you ever discover it’s a fraud. Check all terms and conditions of the sale, especially limitations, before buying the item.
For more information on scams, check out BBB Scam Tips.
Report scams (whether or not you’ve lost money) to BBB Scam Tracker.