There are scammers out there targeting conference exhibitors and attendee. What are they looking for? Credit card numbers, money wires and personal information that they can use to steal identities. One of the ways that scammers get this information is by using invitation or list scams. Basically, if you are registered for a conference, speaking at a conference, a conference vendor or just “in the business”, you might get an email…or several emails…that invite you to a conference or offer to sell you a list of attendees, and their contact information, which may be beneficial to you…but is it too good to be true? Definitely.
These Lists are Lies
Along with conference invitation scams, many associations are targets of list scams. A quick search of “Attendee List Sales Scam” pulls up numerous associations whose members and anyone interested in marketing to these members are being targeted by criminals to purchase non-existent lists.
Though it might sound great to get a list of all attendees of a conference, including their contact information, you might be surprised to know that these lists are lies. On top of that, getting this information might not even be legal.
Think about it for a second. When you signed up for a conference, did you choose to opt-in to have your personal information shared with others? Probably not, and that also means that most of the other attendees did not do this either.
To find out if the list is possibly legit, take a look at the show’s policies. Do they give information to third parties? Do they rent or sell lists of attendees? Is the name of the company that contacted you on the list of their third-party vendors? If this checks out, the list could be legitimate. If not, it’s probably a lie.
If you think you are dealing with a liar, the first thing you should do is plug the company that contacted you into the Better Business Bureau’s website. If it is a scam, you should certainly see information proving that. If not, but you aren’t interested, just unsubscribe. If you think that you are dealing with a scammer, don’t reply or even unsubscribe. Instead, just delete the email and don’t take any action. Many of these scammers are simply looking for active email addresses.
More Conference Invitation Scams
Another scam involves telling attendees about exhibitors that don’t even exist. This can push you into wanting to sign up for the conference, but in reality, the conference, itself, might not even exist, and in this case, you could just be giving your hard-earned money to a scammer.
So, if you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you want to do is research. One step is to look up the person who contacted you online, such as on LinkedIn, and see if they are who they say they are. Another thing to do is to contact the conference venue and ask if the event is being held there. You can also check the contract for refund or cancellation information. You also should do some research about the reputation of the contactor company. Finally, always make sure that you pay for any conference with a credit card. This way, with zero liability policy’s, you can get your money back, and every legitimate conference company is happy to accept credit cards.
But Wait…There’s More
Another scam associated with trade shows and conferences is to contact attendees about hotel reservations, but once you pay…it’s all a scam. Usually, these scammers will contact the attendees and say that they represent the hotel for the conference. They will tell you that rates are significantly rising or that it is sold out, so you must act immediately…however, they will say that they need the full amount up front.
When in doubt about this type of scam, you should always contact the trade show organizers yourself, and then ask who the booking rep is. You should also give them the name of the company that you believe is scamming you so they can advise others of the scam.
Know Your Options
- It is very important when you are signed up to present or attend a conference that you only engage with the company that is running the conference
- If in doubt, confirm with the company that the offers from third-party claims are correct.
- You can also get an official exhibitor list of official vendors.
- Keep in mind that these legitimate companies might have your personal information, but they would not release your personal contact information with third-parties.
- Some exhibitors might get the mailing address of attendees, which you can opt out of. Most of this is harmless, of course, but that doesn’t mean that all of these lists are.
Finally, you want to watch out for wi-fi hacking. This is a common scam for conference goers. When you attend a conference or trade show, you probably just expect that you will get free wi-fi, right? This allows you to take care of business and ensure that your booth runs smoothly. Hackers know this, of course, so they set up nearby and create fake networks. Once you connect to these networks, they can come into your device, take your information, and even watch everything you are doing online.
Keep in mind that these fake networks look remarkably similar to the legitimate networks set up by the conference. So, always double check before connecting, and if you are ever in doubt, make sure to ask one of the conference or trade show organizers. They can confirm that you are on the right network. There are always going to be scammers out there, especially when you are attending a trade show or conference. There are just too many opportunities for scams, and they can’t say no. Fortunately, by following the advice above and by reporting any suspicious activity, you can not only make sure that you, yourself aren’t falling for these scams, but also help others to not fall for this type of nefarious scheme.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.