Are you a Target of a List Scam? WARNING: You Probably Are
You might not realize it, but there are scammers out there that are focused on conference attendees and exhibitors. What do they want? They want money wires, credit card numbers, and any personal information that they can use to steal a person’s identity. One way that a scammer can get this info is by using an invitation scam or a list scam.
Basically, if you are a person who is registered for a conference, if you are a conference vendor, or if you are speaking at a conference, you might receive an email...or a number of emails...that invite you to attend a conference. They might also offer to sell you a list of people who will attend the conference, and their contact information. This, of course, could be beneficial for you, but it is too good to be true? It certainly is.
Lists Like These are Lies
With these scams, many people are targets, as well as associations. If you do an internet search for “Attendee List Sales Scam", you will find a number of associations that have members and those interested in marketing to members, which are targeted by a criminal or criminals to purchase lists that don’t exist.
It may sound great to get a list like this, which will give you access to this information, including contact information for attendees. But they are all lies. On top of this, getting this info might even be illegal.
Consider this for a moment...when you sign up for a conference, did you opt-in to have your personal info shared with other people? Likely not, and that may also mean that other attendees didn’t do this, either.
To find out if a list might be legitimate, look at the policies for the conference. Do they give info to third parties? Do they sell or rent these lists? Is the company name that contacted you on the list of third-party vendors? If all of this seems legitimate, the list is probably fine...but if not, it’s a total lie.
If you believe that you are dealing with a liar, the first thing you should do is contact the Better Business Bureau online and find out if the company is legitimate, or not. If it is a scam, you can read information and reports from other people. If it is not a scam, but you are not interested in anything from them, simply mark the email as spam. If you believe you are dealing with a scammer, considering letting the association or meeting planner aware of the scam, or, don’t do anything. Instead, delete the email. In most cases, these scammers are just looking for an active email address, and if you reply or unsubscribe, they will know your email is active.
Other Conference Invitation Scams
Another type of conference scam is when attendees are told about exhibitors that don’t exist. This might push people to sign up for a conference, when in reality, those exhibitors won’t be there. In some cases, you might even find that the conference itself won’t be there! Instead, they are just fishing for your information by telling you a great exhibitor will be there.
So, if you are in this situation, the first thing to do is to start researching. First, look up the name of the person who contacted you online. See if they say who they are. Look for their LinkedIn profile, or look for reviews on them. You can also contact the venue where the conference is set to be held. Ask if the conference will be there. Before you send your fee, look to see if there is any cancellation or refund policy in place. You also should do some research about the company’s reputation. Finally, make sure that you only pay for a conference with your credit card. This way, you won’t be held liable for the fee if this is a scam. You can get your money back, and all legitimate conference companies will be very happy to take your credit card and all credit card companies will refund your money as long as you detect the fraud in short order.
Even More Scams
There are even more scams to be aware of, too. One of these is when a scammer begins to contact attendees about hotel reservations. However, once you pay, you find out it’s a scam. Typically, a scammer who does this scam contacts the attendees and explains that they are a representative for the hotel hosting the conference. They then tell you that their rates are rising quickly, or that rooms are close to selling out, so you must act quickly if you want a room. Of course, they can take all of your information over the phone, including your credit card number. Once you do this, you have just given a scammer all of the information they need to start spending.
If you are in doubt, you can contact the organizers of the trade show directly, and then ask who is booking it. If things don’t sound legitimate, you should give them the name of the company you believe is scamming you so they can pass off the information to others.
Understand Your Options
- It is imperative that when you sign up to attend or present a conference that you only interact with the company that is running the conference.
- If you have any doubts you can confirm with the company that the offers you are getting from the third-party are correct.
- You also can get an official list of official vendors from the meeting planner.
- Keep in mind that any legitimate company might have your personal info, but they won’t release that information to third parties without your permission.
- Sometimes an exhibitor might get the mailing address of an attendee. You can opt out of this, though. It might be harmless, but that doesn’t mean all of them are.
Finally, you want to keep an eye out for Wi-Fi hacking. This common scam targets conference goers, too. When you go to a conference or a trade show, you can connect to the free Wi-Fi, right? This allows you to stay connected, and also ensures everything runs smoothly if you are running a booth. Hackers, of course, know this, so they create and set up fake networks. Once these are set up, you can connect to them without even knowing...and then they have access to your device. They can then take your info and watch what you are doing online. Utilize a VPN to prevent any Wi-Fi intrusions.
Remember, these fake networks look very similar to real networks that might be set up by the conference. So, you always want to double check before you connect, and if you are in doubt, ask one of the organizers which one is legitimate. They can confirm the network for you.
There are always scammers out there, especially when you are going to a conference. There are simply too many opportunities for scams for them to pass this up. Fortunately, you can follow the advice above and make sure that you report any suspicious activity. Not only can this protect others, but it can stop scammers in their tracks.
ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program