Better Business Bureau warns against Michael Jackson memorabilia scams

It didn't take long for those who hoped to cash in on the death of the King of Pop to come out in force.

For-sale signs have popped up all over the Information Super Highway for everything from Michael Jackson dolls to a Michael Jackson "sweat rag." Price for a 21-year-old rag the seller says MJ used to wipe his brow at Madison Square Garden: $1,000 on craigslist.

A New Port Richey resident offered an invitation to Jackson's Neverland Ranch, securely and carefully kept in a frame, for $1,000. For $5, a Spring Hill company, called Cassandra Enterprises, will send a snapshot-sized photo of a blurry man said to be Jackson.

The Better Business Bureau just warns consumers who want to purchase some Jackson memorabilia to carefully evaluate the source of the product and the transaction as classified advertisements and e-mail solicitations are soaring.

At times like these, scams become abundant. And while collectors and fans want to snag a great piece of history, it behooves consumers to be cautious.

"The cause of Michael Jackson's untimely death still needs to be determined, and already people are seeing suspicious and awkwardly written e-mails appear in their in-boxes offering supposedly authentic items from the pop singer's life," Steve Bernas, chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau office in Chicago, said in a statement.

Craigslist posted its own warning on some Jackson items for sale: "DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON. Follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts on craigslist."

Terry McElroy, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said to look for a retailer or person you know and trust for the purchases, when possible.

"A lot of it is common sense, checking it out to the extent you can," McElroy said. "If you recognize a retailer, if you recognize a manufacturer, that would be a positive thing."

What about the sweat rag?

Kevin Jackson, of the Hills­borough Consumer Protection Agency, offers this advice: "If it comes with ticket stubs, maybe that's how you authenticate it. Buyer beware, you know. Don't let fanaticism take over your better judgment."

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332.

The Edge

Here's the Edge, courtesy of the Better Business Bureau:

Scrutinizing the seller: If it is an individual selling through an online commerce Web site, look at the seller's rating on that site and other people's experience with the seller.

Pricing the item: Is the item truly unique or has the price simply been jacked up because of current interest? Look at prices of comparable items.

Evaluating the item's authenticity: If it is an autograph or other personal item, the seller should explain how he got it and whether it is a licensed product. Get the autograph verified.

Making payment: Pay with a credit card. If the item isn't authentic or what you expected, you can dispute the charge with the credit card company.

Better Business Bureau warns against Michael Jackson memorabilia scams 06/29/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 8:52am]

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