Here’s how to know when to call “foul” and walk away from a shady sports betting site.

3 minute read

Now that March Madness and the NBA basketball season are here, plenty of sports fans can’t wait to bet on their favorite teams. Thanks to the legalization of sports betting in many states,  gambling on wins, losses and crucial tournaments is more popular than ever.

Legalized sports betting for people 21 and older increased by 80 percent in 2021, according to a recent survey by Morning Consult, a data collection company. Other findings from the survey include:

  • Eighteen percent of respondents say they bet on sports at least once a month, either online, at a “brick-and-mortar” sports book, with an authorized bookie or with friends and family.
  • The share of people who bet on sports at least once a week doubled, from five percent in January 2021 to 12 percent in December 2021.
  • Respondents in legal sports betting states were no more likely to bet on sports than people in states that haven’t legalized sports betting.
  • People under age 45 are more likely to bet on sports than their older counterparts.

With the popularity of sports betting, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker is receiving reports about scamsters posing as legitimate sports betting websites. By knowing the signs of a sports betting scam, you can avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim.

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How sports betting scams work

Many scam sports betting websites or apps look legitimate. They may even offer an initial “risk-free” bet in the form of a bonus to lure you in. After you place a bet and try to collect your winnings, however, you can’t withdraw the money. Sports betting scammers may blame your inability to access funds owed to technical issues. They might ask you to deposit more money before you can cash out your winnings.

One victim reported to the BBB Scam Tracker that he tried to cash out three times but was denied each time. Then a customer service agent told him that he needed to provide a driver’s license photo and a “blank check” to access the funds.

“Whatever you do, you’ll never be able to get your money off the site,” warns the BBB. “And any personal information you shared is now in the hands of scam artists.”

How to steer clear of sports betting scams

Follow these four BBB tips to avoid placing sports bets with a scam website.

Find out: 7 Tips for Avoiding Sports Merchandise Scams

1. Stick with an approved, established service

“Look for ‘white-listed’ sports books that have been approved by your area’s gaming commission,” says the BBB “In the United States, ESPN has a list of where sports betting is legal.”

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2. Don’t be seduced by tempting ads

Don’t click on sports-betting ads that pop up on social media. Also ignore unsolicited emails and text messages with sports betting links.

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3. Review the fine print on incentive offers

You may get so excited about bonuses or incentives for new users that you don’t read the fine print before betting on the big game. However, failing to review offer details could make a deceptive offer at a sports betting site seem more appealing than it actually is. “Be sure to read the fine print carefully,” warns the BBB.

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4. Know the site’s policy on freezing winnings

Before you place a bet, look up the sports betting site’s terms of service for when it can freeze your winnings. Even legitimate sports betting websites can freeze your winnings if they think that you have an unfair advantage or show suspicious playing patterns, says the BBB.

Find out: 5 Social Media Ads that Could Be Scams

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC