DETROIT -

Comerica Park may still be filled with snow, but the day so many Detroit Tigers fans are counting down to -- Opening Day -- is only two-and-a-half weeks away. However, the start of baseball season comes with a warning.

Tom Choske, a Tigers fan, will be there for Opening Day.

"I think we got a really good team this year and we can go far," said Choske.

It's hard to believe baseball season is near when the field is still covered with snow.

"I think instead of cleats, they're going to issue ice skates," said John King, a Tigers fan.

As the grounds crew prepares the field for the home opener on March 31, U.S. Immigration and Customs' Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are warning Tigers fans to beware of people selling fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets and even tickets.

"It's an exciting day for Tigers fans to get ready to the start the new year with a sell-out crowd," said HSI Deputy Special Agent William Hayes. "We anticipate this market will be real lucrative for those who would be interested in counterfeiting."

Fake jerseys, ball caps, T-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs are among the counterfeit merchandise and clothing typically sold at and around these events. Large sporting events are prime targets for counterfeiters, many of whom travel the country with the sole intention of scamming innocent sports fans.

According to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, businesses worldwide lose an estimated $600-$700 billion annually due to counterfeiting.

"We work closely with local law enforcement agencies, HSI, and our ballpark concessionaire, Delaware North Sport service, year round and want to ensure patrons we are on the lookout for counterfeiters, who will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Duane McLean, executive vice president of business operations for the Detroit Tigers.

Counterfeiters are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, but fans can keep several key factors in mind when making purchases to avoid being victimized:

  • Purchase tickets and memorabilia at authorized retail locations and licensed online vendors, such as the official team stores, rather than buying items from street vendors, flea markets, online auctions or other questionable sources.
  • Look out for ripped tags or irregular markings on apparel.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. However, while some counterfeiters may attract fans with a low price tag or two-for-one deals, just as many try to legitimize their merchandise with a higher price point. Purchasing merchandise from authorized dealers helps guarantee the product and provides a reputable source of concerns, returns and exchanges.

However, some scammers may try to legitimize their merchandise with a higher price point. The feds plan to go after counterfeiters trying to throw a curveball at unsuspecting fans.

"Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. The rightful trademark holders, in this case the Detroit Tiger are losing profits for these counterfeit sales and the public is getting a substandard product," Hayes said.