Scams at Events — What to Do?

Author: Convene Editors       

Skin cream scams at events are rubbing planners in PCMA’s Catalyst forum the wrong way.

Convene frequently features some of the most popular topics being discussed on PCMA’s Catalyst forum, which offers members a platform to — as the website says — communicate and collaborate. Here’s a selection from a recent Catalyst discussion.

Skin Cream Scam

“I am wondering if anyone else has had exhibitors on their show floor that get in by creating fake websites and then sell skin creams,” Kristi Casale, senior meetings and continuing education director for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, asked the PCMA Catalyst community. “We have had several companies state that they are dental tool manufacturers and when they arrive, they aggressively sell skin creams. We have had several members try to get refunds to no avail. The companies cannot even be contacted after the fact. They provide fake addresses and don’t even bring the products they claim to be selling. The creams cause rashes or don’t show up at all. They are ridiculously expensive. Does anyone have experience with this? What have you done? How have you prevented it?”

We have had this problem in the past, especially when we have conferences with exhibits in Las Vegas. We instituted a policy of no selling on the floor and we research the company, especially if they have never exhibited with us before. We ask for their company website and make sure that they are who they say they are. Hope this helps.

— Toyin Alaka, meetings manager, National Commission on Correctional Health Care

We have also experienced this dilemma in Las Vegas and as a result, now have a policy that we do not accept skin care, cosmetics, laser/light therapy, or wound-care vendors, and there’s no selling on the floor. As part of the contract, exhibitors agree that the information that they provide is accurate — we ask for a paragraph explaining the company and the goal of exhibiting. A word of caution for other Vegas planners, if you have the skin cream companies on site and they are violating your rule/policy, take photos.

— Kathy Uy, MS, CMP, senior meetings manager, American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Las Vegas has been the city where this has happened. Here are my suggestions to avoid this as these companies change names and put up bogus websites to get around compliance with rules. Try some version of this:

New exhibitors that are not recognized as an industry supplier would need to be approved by providing proof of the following:

  • Evidence of business license or LLC or [certificate of incorporation]
  • Required COI [certificate of insurance]
  • Website with clear refund policy
  • [Require] photos and clear descriptions of the product or service
  • [Require] photo of booth from previous show.

If they come on site with anything other than what they show in photos, they are not allowed to exhibit and they forfeit any money paid. Also, be aware of the same type of thing in the cellphone accessory business — same M.O.

— Dawn Norman, president, NormanD Productions

We feel your pain! These companies are notorious for representing themselves in a false manner. Vetting them is the first line of defense. However, if they get through, you have every legal right to ask them to leave when they show up on site. Make sure you have the proper language in your contract that allows you to remove them. Happy to provide language if you need it.

— Noreen Burke, director of business development, Corcoran Expositions Inc.

It’s such an ongoing problem that continually gets worse each year. We had up to 20 companies last year trying to exhibit. Our only saving grace is that we have a committee approve all new exhibitors. We make the company complete a product summary form and send literature about their company/ product. In addition, if they have a fake website (usually an email address), and are located in Las Vegas, we inform the committee members and they usually reject the application based off of our recommendation. Let me know if you have any other questions.

— Lisa A. McGlashen, CEM, CMP, HMCC, associate director of exhibits, American Association for Cancer Research

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