Sports betting has morphed from a fringe activity favoured by serious gamblers into a pastime enjoyed by an ever-larger number of average sports fans over recent years. Without doubt, we have the internet to thank for that. In the late 20th century, placing a bet usually meant entering that most mysterious establishment, the betting shop, and queueing up, cash and betting slip in hand. The frosted windows and eccentric characters were generally enough to put many off, as well as the mysteries of exactly what went on inside.
A safe bet online
Today, it's the work of a few seconds to install a bookmaker app on your phone and set up an account. From there, the process is straightforward and intuitive. Sadly, as more money has changed hands and a new, less experienced breed of punter has appeared on the scene, so the scammers have seen new opportunity in the sports betting market. The experts at scams.info recently ran a study on the subject and say that the single most important thing you can do to avoid being scammed is to use a recognised and reputable sports betting site. They cited examples of the best betting sites in the UK such as Unibet, BetWay and Betvictor, all of which are household names.
Still, the scammers can sometimes look highly convincing, and if you let your guard down it is easy to be drawn in. Here, we take a look at two betting scams that have cropped up time and again over recent months.
Match fixing scams
From football to cricket to snooker, match fixing has received huge levels of media attention over recent years. That's as it should be, as it brings the whole concept of professional sport into disrepute. The trouble is that the screaming headlines can give the impression that match fixing is commonplace, when in fact, instances are incredibly rare thanks to strong internal controls by the governing bodies.
If you are approached by someone claiming to have inside information on fixed results, they are almost certainly lining you up for a long con. Typically, they start with a free bet to show they are for real. When it proves correct, they offer you a go again, but this time, you pay a fee. When that proves correct, you will have absolute confidence in them, and by the fourth iteration, you'll be prepared to stump up however much they ask for.
So how do they get it right the first three times? The answer is simple, it's all sleight of hand. Suppose 80 people are onboard initially. They will tell 40 that one team is certain to win, and 40 the other team. The same applies with the second and third rounds, it's just that the number of marks is halving each time. By the fourth iteration, they have five people eating out of their hands.
This is a scam that is as old as the hills. In fact, a Ponzi scheme was an important plot point in the Dickens classic Martin Chuzzlewit. Essentially, it is a betting syndicate that offers guaranteed returns on your investment. It works by using the money that new investors put in to pay older investors. The bigger it gets, the more money there is, but the trouble with these schemes is that they reach a point at which they can't get any bigger, and then collapse under their own weight.
By the time that happens, the organisers have destroyed the fake financial accounts they used to tempt new investors, emptied the bank accounts and disappeared. A recent scheme of this type cost 5,000 investors an estimated £70 million and ruined lives.
Sports betting is a fun way to get more immersed in the game. Just remember to keep it simple, use a recognised bookmaker site and steer well clear of anything that claims to offer a "guaranteed return."