Exhibitors and attendees are constantly flooded with solicitations from unaffiliated agencies, list services, housing agents and other providers claiming to be endorsed by and affiliated with trade show or convention management. Understanding how room poachers operate and knowing what to watch out for could save you from being scammed while participating in a trade show or conference.
How do they work?
Conference poachers source contact information through unauthorized use of published lists and list purchasing. They attempt to appear as convincing as possible by creating fake websites and issuing seemingly legitimate confirmation numbers. Scammers oftentimes commit copyright infringement by using the show management’s name and logo in their emails and marketing materials to imply an official partnership or endorsement. It’s important to understand that scammers are becoming more digitally savvy each day, so keeping a watchful eye for their tactics is more important than ever.
The 5 Red Flags
Although technology is making it easier for unauthorized organizations to reach and poach attendees and exhibitors, here are a few red flags to watch out for when securing your trade show housing.
1. The deals are too good to be true.
Show organizers and housing agencies partner with hotels to secure discounted rates for attendees and exhibitors – so you’re already getting the best official deal. If you’re approached by a company that is not the official booking agency claiming to be affiliated to the show and they’re offering accommodations at a lower price than the official block, it is likely a poacher.
2. A full payment is required up front.
Legitimate vendors and hoteliers will not require a payment in-full, upfront. Most housing accommodations can be secured with only a card on file, and this is common practice in the hotel industry. Any offers requiring payment immediately to secure is probably a scam.
3. Inconsistent online presence.
All official vendors and housing partnerships will be clearly displayed on the official show website. If you are having difficulty finding evidence of a housing partnership or the online presence of a vendor is spotty, it is likely unaffiliated.
4. Scare tactics.
Poachers will use scare tactics to rush exhibitors and attendees into booking with them immediately. Show management will always communicate clearly about room and registration availabilities. Offers with quick deadlines and references to the hotel being “sold out or “rooms filling up fast” are usually scams.
5. Scams are marketed like spam.
Legitimate housing organizations will communicate professionally and are respectful of your time. Scammers will oftentimes spam your email inbox or phone with relentless communications about service offerings – sometimes multiple times a week. If you’re being aggressively marketed to about a room deal, it is likely not from an official hotel partner.
What should you do if you suspect a scammer?
You should always gather as much information as you can and immediately contact show management through either their provided customer service contact or housing contact if you think you’ve been solicited by a fraudulent provider. The event organizer can use this information to act and save other stakeholders from potentially being solicited as well.