HOUSTON -

Several consumer groups are warning college basketball fans about ticket-buying pitfalls as NCAA March Madness tournament heats up this week.

Second and third round regional Division I conference games are scheduled March 22 and March 24 at the University of Texas. Arlington will be hosting the South Regional Championships on March 29 and March 31.

Consumer Action and Fan Freedom want fans to use caution when purchasing tickets to avoid buying fraudulent or nontransferable tickets.

"Because the NCAA sells March Madness tickets almost one year in advance in multi-game ticket packets, fans need flexibility to trade, re-sell and gift unused tickets. March Madness is always an exciting time for sports fans and thousands will be able to cheer on their teams in person this Friday in Austin, and again next week, in Arlington. But ticket buyers need to watch closely and make sure they know exactly what they are purchasing," said Fan Freedom Consumer Advocate Elizabeth Owen. "The last thing we want to happen is someone getting misled into buying different tickets other than were advertised, or tickets that can't be transferred."

"We all have the right to purchase tickets to watch and support our favorite teams and we should be able to give away or resell our tickets if our teams do not advance in the tournament," said Linda Sherry, director of National Priorities at Consumer Action. "Anti-consumer policies like restricted ticketing strip fans of our freedom to give away, buy, or sell tickets."

Fan Freedom offers fans planning to attend the games several tips.

Use Reliable Sellers: Check with the better business bureau if you are unsure whether a company is legitimate.  

  • Check your ticket vendor's guarantee policy: For example, websites like Stub Hub, TicketsNow, Ace Tickets and All-Shows guarantee every ticket sold on their sites and will replace them or provide refunds to consumers if they receive the wrong tickets or their tickets are invalid. Other online classifieds sites do not offer such guarantees.
  • Pay Attention to URLs: When buying tickets directly from a venue, check the website's URL to ensure that you do not get tricked by an imposter. even if a website looks official, it may be bogus
  • Read the Fine Print: Just because you bought a ticket does not mean you can give it away. Some concerts and sporting events sell restricted paperless tickets, requiring the buyer to show up at the venue and present the purchasing credit card and photo ID.
  • Know the Rules: Some venues limit the number of tickets you can buy.   Make sure you know the maximum number of tickets allotted.
  • Buy with a Credit Card: Be sure to use a credit card when purchasing tickets so you can dispute any unfair or unauthorized charges.
  • Be prepared to pay additional fees: The ticket price listed at the start of the purchasing process will likely not be your final price.