As the Kentucky Derby nears, hundreds of related advertisements are popping up online on sites such as Craigslist. But are they real?
Some cater to the cash-challenged, such as previously-worn yellow satin, pink and grass-green Derby hats and bargain parking spaces.
Others are pitching to those wanting a more posh experience, such as a $4,000 pair of track-side suite seats on race day offering free food and unlimited premium liquor. One advertisement seeking $650 per person to attend the black-tie Derby Eve Gala promises a gourmet meal, “You can mingle with celebs and other VIPs from the sports, music, TV, movie, poker, literary and horse racing worlds after their red carpet entrance.”
Tips to stay safe
Hatmakers and masters of the Hot Brown aren’t the only ones eyeing cash generating opportunities during Derby season. Oversees scammers who might not be able to pronounce Loo-a-vul or Loueyville typically surface every year.
Misspellings and grammar errors are a red flag that could denote a non-native English speaker with no ties to the Commonwealth or its touted festivities.
Some create authentic-looking dummy sites that appear to be eBay, StubHub or Ticketmaster. Check the URL before entering your credit card number and other personal information. Also be sure it’s a secured sight that begins with “https” and not just “htt.”
Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
Don’t get a prepaid debit card and reveal the numbers to someone you haven’t vetted.
The safest way to get tickets is directly through Churchill Downs, with general admission still available at the box office or online at KentuckyDerby.com.
If you are aiming for a better vantage point, try Kentucky Derby Ticket Exchange, a fan resale market for Oaks and Derby tickets. Churchill Downs recently began partnering with TicketMaster for the guaranteed resale seats.
Avoid the wrist band scam
So many people were going to the Derby – then leaving early and peddling their wrist bands – that Churchill Downs put a new policy in place a couple of years ago: Once you’re in, you’re in.
But not everyone knows about the new rules. So fraud victims are expected to show up again this year after forking over cash only to be turned away at the gate. Last year, some also were duped by bands for pricier sections with unlimited food and liquor.
Bands, given to all ticket holders with seats at the gate, are never legitimately for sale.
Other red flags
Before you go all-in for a shot at rubbing elbows with a Grammy winner or Hollywood A-lister, be aware that fraudulent tickets to Derby-related events – including the Oaks – pop up every year from scalpers near the event site or scattered throughout the downtown area. Some are armed with obvious fakes, but others create intricate copies that look similar to the real thing.
Before deciding whether to rent someone’s house or pay to park in the yard, do some digging.
Check Zillow, Realtor.com and other websites to make sure the house isn’t up for sale and possibly vacant.
Before you hand over your cash to park near Churchill Downs, verify that the person selling parking space in a yard actually owns the house. Some thieves have set up shop in a stranger’s yard, scooped up cash and vanished during past Derby events. Victims have returned to meet an irritated home owner, realizing their cars were towed.
Also, be prepared that some who are selling parking spots might ask for your car keys if they’re lining up cars behind one another. Check to see if their driver’s license lists the address of the house and snap a photo with your phone.
It takes mere seconds, and could save much cash and hassle, to verify a home owner’s identity through free Jefferson County property records available online.