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What you need to know about scammers during March Madness season

March Madness can be a slam dunk for scammers targeting fans. How to box out scams surrounding the tournament.

SAN ANTONIO — The madness has begun, but do not let the insanity come off the court and into your bank account. The best offense is a good defense to protect yourself from any scam. 

During the tournament, scammers will be competing to get your money and personal information.

“They're going to be offering tickets to games that don’t exist,” said Chris Drake, a senior vice president with iconectiv, a cybersecurity company. “They’re going to be offering prizes, promotions that aren’t really there.”

“Online ticket scams are very popular where it’s just ‘hey, click here to get a chance to win free tickets to a March Madness game,’” said Jason Zirkle, the training director for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. “Who doesn’t want free tickets to a March Madness game, right?”

You will likely get a text or an email with a link.

“They’re basically looking for people that are so excited about March Madness that they’re not thinking twice before they engage further with that message,” Drake said. “Because it’s so cheap to send out messages, you should be on your guard.”

The message probably will come from an unfamiliar number or sender.

“The scammers send millions of these out trying to catch people in their net,” Drake said.

Protect yourself with this game plan:

“The big thing is, never click on a link. In fact, I think as a society we should all get used to never clicking a link in any unsolicited email or text message,” said Zirkle.

Also, be aware of how you are asked to pay. Untraceable and nonrefundable payments like wire transfers, deposits through apps like Cash App or Zelle, gift cards, and cryptocurrency should be a red flag. You cannot get that money back.

Stop scams before they start with these two steps so if you accidentally hit a harmful link you are not the loser.

First, freeze your credit to block financial fraud.

“Freeze your credit in all three bureaus,” Drake said. “It’s so easy to do. It’s free to do. It’s so easy to unfreeze when you need to open an account.”

 Second, back up your devices such as your phone and computer.

“If you did get malware and were infected, you can restore to your prior state so easily that way within say 20 or 30 minutes as opposed to a long weekend continuously trying to recreate where your phone was before the lapse of judgement," Drake said.

Report scams to the Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission to help law enforcement warn others and stop criminal activity. 

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