Fake livestream scam targets high school sports fans

From tireless endurance to sportsmanship, state basketball can bring out the best in people. But unfortunately, it also brings out the worst.
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 9:41 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2023 at 10:23 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - From tireless endurance to sportsmanship, state basketball can bring out the best in people. But unfortunately for folks like Marla Maschmann, it also brings out the worst.

It’s NSAA Girl’s State Basketball week in Lincoln, and that means teams have flocked to the capital city from all over Nebraska. With the long distance, some fans are watching the games online, but that means sports fans can fall prey to scams.

Maschmann’s granddaughter is a middle schooler at McCool Junction, so Maschmann became a fan of the school’s sports program this past year. She looked for ways to watch Thursday’s quarter-final high school game against St. Francis online.

“I was trying to set it up for my mom who was at home, and she wanted to watch,” Maschmann said.

She went to McCool Junction’s school Facebook page, where fans were celebrating the trip to state and found a link that kept appearing in the comments.

“It had the right game there,” Maschmann said. “It had the countdown to the game. It had the right time. It had the school mascots, so it looked like it was a real site.”

The site asked her to set up an account and enter her credit card information for a small fee. But when she tried to watch the game, she was faced with an error message. Her card information apparently didn’t go through, but then she saw a charge on her card.

“I just thought, this is probably a scam,” Maschmann said.

Her hunch was right, so she cancelled her credit card as a precaution. Scams like this are all too common in high school athletics, McCool Superintendent Dade McDonald said.

“We’re trying to be preventative as best we can, but it’s something that just takes a lot of time,” McDonald said. “And once you get rid of one, it seems like two more pop up.”

Dade spent part of Thursday’s game playing whack-a-mole with the fake Facebook comments, deleting them left and right. But he also works to promote legitimate links.

As for those legitimate ways to watch those state games, the NFHS Network streams the quarter-finals and semi-final games. That service costs about $12 minimum, and Nebraska Public Media streams the championship games for free.