Olympic Scammers Go for the Gold as Games Near

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Every four years, the world’s best athletes come together to compete in the Summer Games. And every four years, scammers try to use the Games to swindle people out of money. With less than a week before the Olympics begin in London, those scammers appear to be stepping up their efforts.

Last week, computer security firm McAfee compiled a gallery of 18 different spam e-mails that all use some form of London 2012 imagery designed to rip-off unsuspecting Olympics fans. One example: “THE LONDON OLYMPIC 2012 PROMOTION is proud to inform you that you are one of our lucky winners.” Many of the e-mails that start out like this inform recipients that they have won a huge amount of money – around $1.5 million, for example – and in order to receive the money, they are asked to pay processing fees and transfer charges so the money can be distributed. Some even ask for passport information or driver’s license numbers.

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Those at McAfee say that as the Games get closer, the scams have been increasing. But those Olympic-themed e-mails are just the beginning.

Some people are now reporting that they’re getting e-mails from “usateam.org,” a completely bogus site that is impersonating teamusa.org, the U.S. Olympic Team’s official site. The e-mails tell recipients that they’ve bought tickets for the Olympics when they haven’t.

“I got an e-mail through my work suggesting that I purchased tickets for Olympic events which I know I had not purchased,” one man told CBS4 in Denver. In fact, he isn’t even planning on going to the Olympics.

Considering virtually all Olympic ticketing is done online, countless scammers are trying to find ways to dupe ticket buyers. But there are ways to figure out if you’re getting cheated.

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London2012.com has an online website checker that allows buyers to enter a ticket reseller’s url to make sure that it’s an authorized reseller. It also has a list of about 70 sites that Olympic officials have determined to be known unauthorized sites offering London 2012 tickets.

Officials say that ticket buyers should be wary of any e-mails or websites that ask for personal info or money upfront, which often include claims of the recipient winning an “Olympic lottery” or even that they can apply for a job involved with the Games – if they pay a fee, of course. You know, because lots of jobs ask for a fee when you’re hired.

The Metropolitan Police Service in London has been alerting the public to the scams and has already targeted 30 international websites and almost 1,000 individuals, all compiled on a massive “watch list.” Many of the “touts” (Brit for “scalper”) have been trying to buy up Olympics tickets in order to resell them illegally, and some are said to have links to organized crime. About 200 have been arrested, and almost 1,000 people who have been involved in previous ticket scams have been sent letters by the police telling them to steer clear of the Games.

Those caught selling fraudulent tickets could be fined upwards of $30,000.