The NFL American football league has warned fans in Atlanta to be vigilant as illegal ticket touts and counterfeit merchandise sellers linger ahead of the Super Bowl this weekend.

Reuters reports that Nick Annan, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, said at a news conference that federal agents have seized more than 285,000 fake tickets and pieces of gear worth upwards of $24m (£18.4m/€21.m) in an effort labelled “Operation Team Player.”

“Watch out for criminals who are looking to scam consumers and illegally profit off the popularity of the NFL, your home team and the Super Bowl,” NFL vice president of legal affairs Dolores DiBella said.

There has been close to 28 arrests and 21 convicted of crimes as a result of the law enforcement efforts.

Local police and federal agents have reportedly seized unlicensed jerseys, hats, phone accessories and thousands of other unauthorised items.

NFL officials said that they have also obtained a civil court order that allows for the seizure of counterfeit tickets and merchandise exposed in Atlanta and the metro area during Super Bowl week.

U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain said his office has indicted 13 individuals with several charges including trafficking in counterfeit goods, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud involving marquee events such as the Super Bowl, Reuters reports.

“When fans spend their hard-earned money on NFL tickets and merchandise, they deserve the real deal,” McSwain said.

The NFL has made its tickets with features that are difficult to reproduce, such as raised graphics, security labelling and special ink that fades when heat is applied, NFL senior counsel Michael Buchwald said.

The Super Bowl, which will be played on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, will see the New England Patriots face the Los Angeles Rams.

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