Conference invitation scams are those that involve a scammer sending invitations out to events with the intention of scamming the invitees. These might be real events or fake events, and the scammers target people including business professionals, lecturers, CEOs, researchers, philanthropists, and more. The goal here is to steal the identities of these people, and eventually get money by taking advantage of their victims.
Spotting a Scam
There are usually some pretty clear signs that you could be dealing with a scam involving a conference invitation. Here are some things to look for:
- The invitation has typos or bad grammar
- The invitation seems very random or out of no where
- The conference name sounds like a conference you might be family with, such as Tech Crunch, but it’s spelled differently, like TekCrunch
- The invitation asks that you pay a premium price to attend, which includes accommodation and transportation
- Payment options don’t include credit cards
- The invitation is overly flattering
- There is a sense of urgency pushing you to send personal information
- The greeting on the invitation is questionable, i.e. “Salutations.”
- The invitation asks for sensitive information in return for “covering” your conference cost, accommodations, and transportation.
- The conference is held in a different country, i.e. Asia or the Middle East
- The landing page doesn’t have a physical address or landline number
- The invitation sounds too good to be true
How Do These Scams Work?
In general, the scammer begins the scam by sending an email to a target victim and invited them to attend or speak at a conference. The scammer usually uses the victim’s social media pages to get information about them, which helps them to create a more personalized email.
The victim is told to register for the conference, which involves giving personal information. Additionally, they could be asked to pay a fee to attend, which could be over $1,000, depending on how long the conference is said to last. Usually, this is where the sense of urgency comes into play, as the scammer will say the conference is filling up or they need to know if they can count on the victim to speak. If not, of course, they must find another speaker, so the victim must confirm as soon as possible.
If the targeted victim complies with this and sends their information, the scammer may have enough information to steal the victim’s identity. Additionally, the scammer can use the name of the victim to promote the conference, especially if it is someone well-known in the industry.
If the victim goes through with all of this, they will quickly find out that they have been scammed. A scammer might also try scamming people who are actually going to a legitimate conference. They claim that they are part of the organization running the conference, and they need information and to collect fees. Of course, since the victim already signed up for the conference, it is easy to believe this scam without giving it a second thought.
Protecting Yourself from Invitation Scams
Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to protect yourself from these types of scams:
- If you get an email similar to ones described here, don’t respond.
- You should investigate any invitation that you are not sure of.
- Do not agree to send money, and only pay with a credit card.
- Don’t agree to give any personal information; a conference organizer doesn’t need to know your Social Security Number
- Research the event and try to match up the information that you were given in the invitation email.
- Copy and paste some of the email into Google to see if others have reported that this is a scam.
What to Do if You are a Victim If you have become a victim of a conference invitation scam, there are steps you should take immediately. First, get in touch with your financial institutions, like banks and credit card companies, and make them aware of this. Next, you should contact the location police and authorities in the area where the conference is allegedly supposed to be held. You should also get in touch with the Better Business Bureau about the company, and you can report the scam online via the BBB’s Scam Tracker or the Federal Trade Commission’s Online Complaint Assistant. Finally, you can also report the scam to the FBI through its Internet Crime Complaint Center.
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.