CHICAGO (WLS) --As March Madness takes hold on the nation, the ABC7 I-Team is investigating a scheme targeting young athletes and their dreams of fame.
Basketball players may be the new victims, but the scheme also allows frauds to take advantage of other young athletes, models or singers. In this case, a basketball player and his father said they were fooled with promises of making it big.
Keith Dean Jr.'s hoop dreams started in Gary, Ind., playing in high school. Now he's in the semi pros, but he recently had a financial setback.
"He's not just playing with one person. He's playing with a whole person's livelihood," Dean said.
Dean talked to the I-Team from a training camp in Spain about how a fake agent swindled him and his father out of $1,000.
"It makes me feel terrible really because now I got this money that's lost that could've gone toward something that could've been more productive and that could've helped me a lot," Dean said.
The award-winning player said the out-of-state "agent" contacted him after getting his phone number from other players.
The agent then told him he made the cut to be flown to Germany and try out for a pro team. The man then told the Deans to deposit two payments of $500 into a bank account.
"I don't think any of it was real. I think this gentleman that took the money was very skillful, knowing how to set it up, making it sound good, even to the point where he threatened my son, 'Well, if you can't get the money, I got another player on hold." So now you're thinking, I don't wanna miss, so I gotta come up with some more money," Dean's father said.
But when they never received flight or hotel information and the big date got closer, the Deans got suspicious. They never heard back from that agent.
"I felt really bad. I mean really sick to my stomach. And I felt that way of thinking, 'Why did I allow this to happen?' And I searched myself over and over because I should be smarter," Dean Sr. said.
The I-Team also called and got a message saying it was a non-working number.
"I'm still standing behind you 100 percent and someone out there is gonna pick you up sooner or later," Dean Sr. told his son.
The Better Business Bureau said basketball players may be the new targets, but that what's known as the agent scam is common.
The warning is simple: an agent should not ask you for advance fees. Instead, you'd pay a commission which is outlined in a written contract. Dean said he'll never make the same mistake.
"If he keeps doing what he's doing it's going to come right back around to you and bite you where you don't want to be bit," he said.
The Deans say they did not tell police about the incident. They did say they reported it to their bank, but since those deposits to the agent were made voluntarily nothing could be done.