By: David Grindle, USITT Executive Director
Conference Registration is open and that means it is open season on Conference scammers.
Each year we have the same issues. People get emails from housing companies that aren’t affiliated with USITT. They get phone calls from people, and they get mailings. They may say, “Let us book your housing,” or our favorite, “We have the list of attendees!” In each of these cases, they are deceiving people or outright lying.
Let’s cover the blatant lie first. NO ONE HAS OUR ATTENDEE LIST. This is the one scam that impacts every attendee because it makes it sound like we are selling your information and we aren’t. We don’t do that. USITT does not share the registration list with people for resale. Attendees can opt-in to receive information from exhibitors, but it is just that, an opt-in. Exhibitors can send you materials IF you opt-in, but that’s the only way.
The deception is usually a housing scam. The majority of our hotel scams go to exhibitors. They get these and the promises of lists because we list our exhibitors on the show website. It’s a catch-22. We could stop these if we didn’t list the exhibitors, but you go to a trade show to see exhibitors, so we need to list who they are. The end result is that scammers take publicly available information and use it to try and get you to book rooms with them.
Often these companies will make reservations in your name, send you a confirmation, and then cancel the reservation, keeping your money. These companies often have multiple names and switch around using different names to avoid litigation. In meetings management, it is called Housing Pirates. For us, we have lots of other names we use but I’ll leave those to your imagination.
USITT has a contracted provider, Connections Housing. They handle our bookings and they are the only people legally allowed to speak on our behalf. You can find their contact information here. I can’t promise that there might not be challenges. When booking more than 6,000 room nights over the course of a week, statistics aren’t in our favor for perfection. But I do know that when there are problems, Connections Housing has people on site to help address them. The other folks may not even answer a call, and we can’t help at all as we don’t have access to those reservations.
If you receive emails or phone calls offering housing help, get as much info as you can and forward it on to me. Connections Housing has a team that addresses Housing Pirates and the more information we have the stronger we can deal with them and work to stop them. If you get offers of selling you the names and addresses of our attendees, just delete it. It isn’t real because it can’t be. Those lists are not shared and typically what you get is something gleaned from Google searches, if it is relevant at all.
There have been an assortment of scams over the years. Regretfully, I don’t think there will ever not be scams. But this I can assure you: USITT, and all other reputable shows, work to keep the list of their attendees private and secure because we know that you are putting your trust in us. We have to earn that trust and we have no desire to break it.