BBB: Sports betting scams are booming

Victim report to Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker: “I deposited money to put a wager for a sports game. I won the bet and attempted three times to cash out and three times it was declined. Spoke to their representative, and they needed a picture of my driver’s license, a photo of myself holding my ID, and a blank check from my bank. With all the run-around I’ve been given, it prompted me to read their reviews. All horrible reviews of a scam. Called my credit card company to file a fraud report.”

Sports betting is exploding in popularity. Problem is, some scammers have set up fake sports betting websites or apps. And BBB is hearing from victims like this person who have been cheated out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Here’s how the scam works. You want to place a bet on an upcoming game, so you search online for a sports betting service. You find a website or app that looks trustworthy. It may even offer an enticing introductory bonus, so you can make an initial bet “risk free.”

You place a bet, and, at first, everything seems normal. But as soon as you try to cash out your winnings, you find you can’t withdraw a cent. Scammers will make up various excuses. For example, they may claim technical issues or insist on additional identity verification. In other cases, they may require you to deposit even more money before you can withdraw your winnings! Whatever you do, you’ll never be able to get your money off the site. And any personal information you shared is now in the hands of scam artists.

How to avoid sports betting scams:

Look for an established, approved service. Look for “white-listed” sports books that have been approved by your area’s gaming commission. Michigan sports betting became legal March 11, 2020. The law provides for wagering on a wide variety of sports, including college contests. Wagering is permitted in person and through mobile devices. Sports betting has just become legal in Ohio for casinos. The state will start issuing sports betting licenses on April 1. Betting will not be allowed for online and mobile apps until January 1, 2023, however this law may be revised to move the date sooner. Bettors are able to place wagers on professional, college and esports.

Don’t fall for tempting ads. Ignore gambling-related pop-up ads, email spam, or text messages.

Read the fine print on incentives. Gambling sites and apps often offer incentives or bonuses to new users and around major games. But like any sales pitch, these can be deceptive. Be sure to read the fine print carefully.

Even legitimate sports betting sites have the right to freeze your winnings. Gambling companies can restrict user’s activity for “seeming to have an ‘unfair advantage’ or ‘irregular playing patterns,’” reports Lifehacker. Be sure to check the terms of service.