Masters brings theft dangers

File/Staff
Don't leave your badge unattended

There are few items more valuable than a Masters badge in April. Just ask Augusta's thieves.

"There are two things they know you've got: tickets and money," said Lt. Tony Walden, who's in charge of the property crimes division of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. "The criminals know people are from out of town and they wouldn't be here if they didn't have tickets to the Masters."

During the week, Lt. Walden said his department sees an increase in thefts at hotels and motels, where thousands of out-of-town guests rent rooms. Car break-ins also seem to be popular for those looking for a tournament badge. Lt. Walden suggests patrons make use of their hotel's safe and not leave badges in their room or on their car's dashboard.

"Leaving them on your night stand is not a good idea," he said.

Some of the thefts occur before the patron arrives at the gate. Police say some will sell bogus or stolen badges on Internet sites. Once Augusta National Golf Club discovers a badge has been stolen, it renders it invalid, meaning the purchaser is out of their money. Lt. Walden said counterfeit badges are less of a problem now because holograms and other precautions have made them almost impossible to fake.

"If you're buying a ticket from someone you don't know, you're taking a big chance with your money," Lt. Walden said. "You could be out of your money and your expectation of seeing the Masters."

If you discover your badge has been stolen, it's best to report the theft to the sheriff's office and the Augusta National as soon as possible, officials say. That way it can be canceled by tournament officials.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

STAYING SAFE

1. Don't leave your badge unattended. Badges left in hotel rooms and vehicles make easy targets for thieves. Police suggest putting it in the hotel's safe.

2. Be careful who you hang out with. Augusta's bars are a great place to meet people and have fun during Masters, but don't let your guard down. Keep your money and your badge away from others.

3. You are always taking a risk by purchasing a ticket from anyone other than Augusta National Inc. According to Masters policy, those who acquire their tickets through third-party resellers such as travel agents, brokers and scalpers could be excluded from the tournament. If you discover your ticket has been stolen, report the theft to Augusta National officials.

Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Office