You May Be Getting Duped When Buying ‘Official’ NFL Merchandise
Is that sweatshirt really a knockoff?
By STEPHANIE ZIMMERMANN<br>THE ABC NEWS FIXER
December 23, 2014, 10:34 PM
• 3 min read
-- Just in time for the NFL playoffs, a consumer group is going after a slew of websites it claims are falsely using its well-known business logo to sell fake fan merchandise.
The Council of Better Business Bureaus said Tuesday that an investigation by one of its member bureaus found numerous websites claiming to sell “official” NFL merchandise while misappropriating the BBB’s famous torch logo. The organization plans to issue cease-and-desist letters to the websites, spokeswoman Katherine Hutt said.
Counterfeiters, often based overseas, have plagued professional sports for years. They often pop up in the postseason when demand for jerseys and other fan items is hot.
The investigation began at the Cincinnati BBB, which serves southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana. Using the phone number listed for customer service on a website selling Cincinnati Bengals merchandise, the bureau uncovered similar websites selling merchandise with logos of the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants and other teams. Some of those sites also falsely claimed accreditation by the BBB, Hutt said.
An online search of the phone number turned up numerous complaints from fans about fake merchandise being sold from various websites.
The websites’ operator could not be reached for comment.
Bengals’ Merchandise Manager Monty Montague confirmed for ABC News that the website is rogue: “This is not affiliated with the Cincinnati Bengals and is a website I have submitted to the National Football League because in my opinion it was one selling counterfeit Bengals merchandise.”
In Chicago, Bears spokesman Jim Christman also confirmed that the site is not their official Bears online shop. The feds have gone after fake sports merchandise in the past, most notably just before last year’s Super Bowl when they announced a huge bust of counterfeit sports merchandise sellers.
“Operation Team Player” involved U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other agencies targeting warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors suspected of selling counterfeit goods.
The operation involved the seizure of more than more than 397,000 items of phony sports clothing and memorabilia with a combined retail value of $37.8 million along with arrests of individuals involved, officials said.
The websites in this latest controversy look legitimate at first glance, with the words “Official Online Store” in large type and photos of players and excited fans.
But in the FAQs on the sites, some of the text is in broken English, with lines like: “How long will be the parcel arrived our country?” – or regarding returns: “If the product’s quality is no problem, we can’t to accept the return it.”
So how can fans protect themselves? The BBB offers this advice:
Use only reputable websites. If you’re unsure, go to your team’s official page to buy there or find out which stores carry official merchandise.
When buying sports memorabilia, ask for a certificate of authenticity and consider getting an independent appraisal. Check the complaint records of sellers.
And the best tip: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.