The Operation Bullpen sting didn’t catch all of the bad guys and new ones have emerged, but the publicity has made collectors more careful.
Those who know the difference between fake autographs and real ones or game-used items and look-alikes admit it’s still a problem. Perhaps the quantity of bogus merchandise has dropped off a bit, but a lot of people are still getting ripped off.
The FBI, which hatched Operation Bullpen in the late 1990s has been more open about the sports memorabilia industry than normal for that reason.
"It’s not eliminated," investigator Tim Fitzsimmons tells the North County Times of Southern California.. "It is a little unusual for the Bureau to reveal quite as much. The reasoning is the education of the public of this crime problem. It’s probably as important as counteracting the threat with what the industry can do in improving security measures."
Guaranteed Authentic Signed Sports Memorabilia can be found. At least on some level, the public is getting smarter and asking more questions. "Now they don’t buy stuff unless it’s authentic," says one dealer.
HBO’s Real Sports delved into the fake autograph problem: