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State police warn about 2018 Olympics scams

FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 file photo, fireworks explode after the Olympic flame was lit during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. On Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, The Associated Press has found that stories circulating on the internet that the death toll is rising rapidly from an outbreak of norovirus at the games are untrue. Norovirus is a common, infections bug that causes unpleasant symptoms but usually doesn’t require medical attention. (Sean Haffey/Pool Photo via AP)

State police warn that the 2018 Winter Olympic Games bring a potential for cash and identity-stealing scams.

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, officially opened Friday, Feb 8, and police say criminals are likely to capitalize on the high-profile event, a news release states.

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Police released a list of Olympic-related scams to watch for this season:

  • Car decoration: An email that appears to come from the U.S. Olympic Committee offers payment for people who agree to display Olympic material on their vehicle. The scammer sends counterfeit checks that exceed the agreed payment amount and asks for a wire transfer of the extra cash.
  • Malware: Emails, text messages and social media links that appear to have news, photos and videos of the Games download malware or ransomware when someone clicks the link or downloads the attachments. Malware and ransomware can be used to steal information from computers or smart devices. Many Olympic-related apps that are not the official Pyeongchang 2018 app also contain keystroke-logging malware and ransomware.
  • Online lottery promotion: Scammers posing as Olympic sponsors such as McDonald's or Coca-Cola will send emails alerting people that they won a cash prize and trip to South Korea through the Olympic lottery. The scammer instructs recipients to pay income taxes or an administrative fee to claim the prizes.
  • Counterfeit Olympic merchandise: Many websites claiming to sell Olympic apparel and other merchandise sell counterfeits. Official Team USA merchandise is available through

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To avoid a scam, Pennsylvania State Police recommend:

  • Do not cash checks that are more than the amount owed and request reimbursement.
  • Never click links or attachments without knowing if they are legitimate, even if the address appears correct.
  • Be aware that lottery taxes are deducted prior to the awarding of the prize, or the recipient is responsible for taxes after receiving the prize. Lottery winners are not typically charged administrative fees.
  • Only download apps from authorized stores.
  • Shop with a credit card because it gives more protection than a debit card if information is stolen.

Police advise victims of scams to contact law enforcement and file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Trade Commission online or at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

When filing a complaint, have this information ready: contact information, the type of product or service involved, information about the caller and details about the transaction.