If you're hoping to see Pope Francis this week when he visits Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, beware of any deal you might come across. They could be scams, consumer protection officials warn.
Indeed, a collection of church groups and an untold number of consumers have already been ripped off.
The scams involve phony tickets and transportation deals. Bogus tickets were sold to a New Jersey man in July who was hoping to see the pope in New York, and reports of other counterfeit ticket deals prompted a round of warnings in the summer.
More recently, church groups that collectively paid thousands of dollars in deposits for transportation to get to see the pope found the company closed and left no way to be contacted, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said.
Her office issued a warning on Tuesday that opportunists are lying in wait for those intent on seeing the leader of the world's Catholics.
"Scam artists are eager to capitalize on high-profile events such as this one in order to illegally profit off people," she said. "People should make sure that they are working with legitimate businesses and ticket holders before booking trips so they don't end up on the losing end of a deal."
Healey explained that the Archdiocese of Boston made available a small amount of tickets available for free through a lottery. Many of those tickets are being sold online by scalpers for "hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars," Healey said.
She warned that while it isn't illegal to sell tickets on the secondary market, it is difficult to determine whether they're legitimate. Healey warned against buying any ticket listed on a secondary site. Trust only those tickets being sold on an official site connected with the papal visit, she said.
In addition, the attorney general said to avoid any offer that involves high-pressure sales tactics, and she warned to never pay by wire transfer and not to pay for any transportation deal without verifying the company's legitimacy.