Asheville, NC – Thanks to new legal changes, the popularity of sports betting has exploded. If you think scammers haven’t noticed, think again. BBB advises that you check before downloading a sports betting app or placing a bet before the big game.

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.

One victim reported to BBB Scam Tracker: “I deposited money to put a wager for a sports game. I won the bet [and] attempted 3 times to cash out and 3 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.”

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. In the United States, ESPN has a list of where sports betting is legal.

• 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.