Catching the game online? BBB, M.I.A.A. warn to look out for sports streaming scams

MASS. — When Covid kept people away from high school fields, many local fans turned to online streams to watch their favorite student athletes compete. The convenience of watching sports online for busy working parents or grandparents who live far away outlasted the pandemic.

But the Better Business Bureau says streamers should be careful what they click. Scammers are trying to capture personal information when fans log in to watch their team play.

Boston 25 reached out the the M.I.A.A. to ask how prevalent the scam is in our area.

“Very prevalent,” said M.I.A.A. Assistant Director Jim Clark. “If you go on Twitter or social media on a Friday night looking for a football score, you type in the name of the two schools and you might get a couple updates on the game and you might see 25 links...and you can tell they’re all fake links.”

Clark tells consumer investigator Jason Law, the scammers are getting better at disguising themselves too.

Here’s how the scam works according to the BBB:

You’re scrolling through your school’s athletic department or team’s social media, and it looks like a fan posts a link to watch the game. The scammer tags your school - so the post looks legit.

The next screen asks you to sign up for a streaming service.

After you enter your name and email, they ask for a credit card and potentially more sensitive information… and they’ve got you.

Matt Troha with the Illinois High School Association has been trying to warn families around the country about this problem.

“Once the pandemic happened, there really became an expectation that high school events would be streamed. The people who are behind these [fake sites] have certainly taken notice of that and now it seems like they’re out there for literally every sporting event,” Troha said.

First: check *directly* with the school or the league itself.

On the M.I.A.A’s website for example, you’ll see the approved site NFHS for watching tournaments.

The BBB offers these tips on how to stay safe 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 if you need to challenge the payment.

· Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “HTTPS://.” You 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 you at risk for malware or identity theft. · See more online shopping tips.

“I always encourage people on Twitter to look at the profile,” said Troha. “It’s an extra step I know people don’t take but usually the name and the image are generally kind of random. A lot of times you can tell they’re brand new accounts because they may only have a couple of followers.”

“Just try to be aware of making sure it’s coming from a legitimate school account, from a legitimate M.I.A.A. account, from the NFHS account, and that’s really all you can do,” added Clark.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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