TAMPA — Take a hard look at that pricey Super Bowl ticket. Authorities expect fakes to start turning up around Tampa Bay by today.
The NFL and law enforcement officials say real tickets — face value: $800 to $1,000 — have myriad tell-tale features designed to thwart counterfeiters:
• "Super Bowl XLIII" is laser-cut into the ticket so light can shine through the words.
• There's a hologram on the back. Turn it one way, and you'll see the words "TAMPA BAY." Turn it the other, and there's the logo for Super Bowl XLIII. The colors should really pop in the light. If you only see both images at the same time, it's probably a piece of silver foil and a fake.
• And at the bottom of the back of the ticket, look at the image of the stadium. The field and two stripes above it are printed in grass-green heat-sensitive ink. Rub it with your thumb, and the field and stripes will disappear. Take your thumb away, and they return.
Typically, 100 to 200 fans show up at the Super Bowl having purchased tickets that are counterfeit, lost or stolen.
"We see it every year: people turned away from the gate telling heartbreaking stories about what they gave up to support their team," said Anastasia Danias, senior counsel for the NFL.
So the league and law enforcement authorities advise fans to be careful: Buy tickets from the league's authorized sources, such as Ticketmaster, the NFL's ticket exchange or through NFL On Location, nflonlocation.net/superbowl.php.
Danias said the league can't vouch for tickets purchased elsewhere, either online or, no surprise here, the guy who approaches fans on the street or outside their hotel.
"Even if a ticket looks real, it may have been reported lost or stolen," Danias said. If so, you won't get into the game.
The league has used the heat-sensitive ink for a couple of years.
"We have not seen that reproduced on a counterfeit ticket," Danias said, though it's not impossible to fake. "That's why we include other security devices on the tickets."
Those include a unique bar code and ID number at the top and gently curving vertical stripes on the front that are printed in raised ink. There also are five other security features that are not made public.
Authorities also urged fans to beware of counterfeit merchandise: clothing with poor stitching, misspelled words, the wrong team colors or suspiciously low prices as well as any products that lack an NFL hologram stamped with a unique serial number.
Tampa police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents Wednesday arrested one man and seized bogus Super Bowl merchandise valued at $115,795 and other fake NFL goods valued at more than $1 million from a Tampa flea market.
"If you want a jersey that's orange and has a serial number on it, we'll be happy to give you that at central booking," Tampa police Major John Bennett said. "And it won't be counterfeit."