Finally we are back to booking a ton of live-in-person security awareness training at conferences! It’s about time! Business is getting back to pre-Covid days here in the States and any non-in-person training is being supplemented with live-online and e-learning. It’s all good! However, we are also seeing more of one of the weirdest scams out there: Conference Invitation Scams.
This is when a scammer sends out invitations to an event, like a conference, with the sole intention of scamming the people they are inviting to attend or to speak at that event. These events might be real, or they could be totally made up. The targets of these scams include CEOs, business owners, lecturers, philanthropists, researchers, and more. The goal of these scammers is to steal the identities of their targets and ultimately get Credit card numbers, checks or money wire transfers by scamming the victims.
And that’s not all, these same scams are usually piggybacked with “conference attendee lists for sale” scams. That means companies that might exhibit or market their products and services to attendees of specific conferences are targeted to buy lists that are either lame or simply don’t exist. Conference managers have their backs up against the wall fielding communications from victims who accuse the legitimate conference hosts of bad service and of course worse, fraud.
Identifying a Scam
There are a few signs that you should look out for when you get an invitation to a conference or an event. They include:
- The invitation is random or a surprise
- The invitation is filled with bad grammar or typos
- The invitation asks that you pay a premium price to attend, which includes both transportation and accommodations
- The name of the conference sounds like one that is real, such as Tech Crunch, but spelled like TecKrunch
- You cannot pay by credit card, they might require a check, wire transfer, peer to peer payment, or cryptocurrency.
- The invitation is extremely flattering
- The greeting on the invitation sounds strange, like “Salutations”
- The invitation creates a sense of urgency about getting your personal information
- The conference is in a different country
- The invitation seems too good to be true
- The invitation asks for personal information and covers your accommodation, transportation, or conference cost
- The landing page of the site doesn’t have a phone number or address listed
- Or none of the above. The invitation or list for sale email is perfect. There are the absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Beware of the Conference Invitation Scam targeting speakers
Generally, the scam works like this: the scammer starts the scam by sending an email to the victim, which invites them to speak or attend a conference. The scammer often uses the victims’ social media pages in order to get info about them. This helps the invitation seem more personalized.
The victim is then asked to register for the conference, which gives the scammer even more personal information. On top of this, the scammer could ask the victim to pay a fee in order to attend the conference, and pay it fast, because they also create a sense of urgency to attend the conference, such as saying “spots are limited.”
If the victim that is targeted falls for the scam and sends their info, the scammer could have enough to steal the person’s identity. To add more, the scammer can even add the name of the victim, if they are well-known in the industry, to promote the conference.
When the victim goes through all of this, they will soon find that they have been the victim of a scammer. You even have to be careful when attending a conference that is legitimate, because a scammer will send out fake invites to real conferences, too. Since a victim knows about these conferences already, they are usually more willing to give up their information.
How to Protect Yourself from a Conference Invitation Scams
There are a few tricks and tips that you can start using if you commonly attend conferences. The include:
It’s entirely likely your email address as a username, has been part of not just one, but multiple data breaches. And because of this, you are likely
- to be targeted in scams related to that organizations product or service. Right now, check if your email address has been part of any specific breaches by utilizing our “Hacked email Checker” and then change your password for those accounts.
- Do your research about the event and try to match up the information you find with the invitation you received.
- Contact the event organizers directly. While a website can be created from scratch or spoofed, there is still value to looking up the event and the contact info of the organizer, report your findings and find out if it’s legit.
- If you see an email that is similar to what is described above, don’t even respond.
- If you get an invitation that seems strange, look into it more.
- Don’t give any personal info, including your Social Security Number. There is no reason a conference organizer would need that.
- Copy and paste the full email into Google to see if others have reported it as a scam. You are likely not the only person to be solicited in this way.
If You are a Victim, What Should You Do?
Do you think you have become a victim of a conference invitation scam? If yes, there are some steps that you should take right now.
- First, get contact with your credit card companies and banks, and make sure they know about it. Refute the fraudulent charges.
- Next, you should contact your local police and file a report which might be needed to get your money back.
- Consider contacting the police in the area where the conference was supposed to be held.
- If you are inclined to do so, you may want to get in touch with the Better Business Bureau and report it.
- You can also report this online by using the BBB Scam Tracker on the BBB website, to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or the FTC’s Online Complaint Assistant.
The most important thing is to pay attention. We’ve never seen more scams or more variations on existing scams in our entire lives. It’s funny to us, we here experts saying “criminal hackers are more sophisticated than ever” and they are not. What they are, is organized, more than ever. Scammers treat fraud as a business, they have a hierarchy, they punch a clock, they have employees, and it is that “structure” that results in a sophisticated profitable business that leads to huge profits.
Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.