CLEVELAND (WJW) – As NBA players and fans flock to Cleveland this week for the NBA All-Star Game, there is also a warning from the league about who else will be coming to town.

“For the NBA All-Star, the counterfeiters actually come in droves. They will come in from different parts of the country and if a fan is fooled, they don’t really care,” said Anil George, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Intellectual Property at the NBA.

Over the years they estimate counterfeiters have sold over 12 million knock off professional sports items, which accounts for more than half a billion dollars in sales.

It’s money that should have gone to local retailers and municipalities, says George. 

“These folks are not part of the local economy and they don’t pay taxes,” said George, “That’s a huge rip off.”

But they’re really stealing from fans, he says, because often times the merchandise is poorly constructed, shrinks, fades or falls apart.

The NBA is working with Cleveland Police and the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on counterfeiters, but also warning fans.

To avoid getting scammed, the NBA recommends only purchasing items from official licensed All-Star locations that include Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, CSU Wolstein Center, NBA Crossover at Public Auditorium, The Westin, Downtown Marriott, Renaissance and the Intercontinental.

Fans should also carefully inspect any item before purchasing it.

“Look for the kind of quality you would expect from the NBA,” said George, “Look also for a hang tag that has the famous NBA logo at the bottom and you’ll see the holographic strip.”

Partner logos will also be present like Nike and NewEra.

However, irregular colors, seams and misspelled or vulgar words are signs that something is counterfeit.

George is also reminding fans that all events are electronic tickets in case someone tries to sell “tickets” outside of the arena.

The NBA says counterfeiting cheats fans not only out of lasting memories, but mementos.

At the end of the day, you want to make sure you have something to remember the experience,” said George.