By Jean Lotus
As excitement builds around the 8th Annual NoCo Hemp Expo to be held at Gaylord Rockies Resort and Conference Center March 23-25, organizers are spreading the alarm about online “list scammers” and “hotel poachers” who have latched onto trade shows and conferences worldwide.
Shady online companies, mostly based overseas to skirt the U.S. legal system, offer to sell fake exhibitor or attendee lists. Other illicit companies claim that hotels for the event are full and offer to book alternate lodging. Participants duped by these scams may have their credit card charged for a fake hotel, or arrive to find no reservations.
NoCo8 this week announced a venue upgrade to the Gaylord, a first-class event center with top-line rooms and event space.
Organizers warned that to reserve discounted room reservations at the original rate of $129 per night, guests MUST register through the NoCo8 website until March 9.
Organizer Morris Beegle cautioned attendees to look out for online fakers who “sell fake attendee lists and present themselves as event affiliates selling hotel rooms and other scams,” he said.
NoCo isn’t the only event plagued by online scammers.
“We see dozens [of scammers] every week,” Jess Tyler, senior vice president of events for the Las Vegas-based MJBizCon told Let’s Talk Hemp last year. “I’d love to say it’s just in the cannabis events, but unfortunately it’s not,” Tyler added.
Scammers are getting more sophisticated and even if they’re exposed, are able to return the next day under a new fake name, Tyler said. “I compare it to whack-a-mole,” she added.
The expo scam industry has been preying on conference attendees for years.
A study from the Events Industry Council shows that online pirates and poachers used trademark infringement, impersonation and electronic fraud to obtain credit card numbers from convention participants across multiple industries.
“I think scammers are getting more sophisticated,” Mellissa Peterson, organizer for the Buffalo, NY-based U.S. Hemp Expo told Let’s Talk Hemp last year.
“They keep doing it because there’s a certain amount of success,” she said.
One U.S. expo organizer, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, took on internet imposters in court and sued a hotel-poaching nonaffiliated travel agency, winning a judgment in 2018.
But most organizers can’t devote the legal resources to chasing down the invasion of scammers.
So, if you’re attending NoCo or any other hemp expo or conference this year, don’t let your experience be poisoned by online predators seeking your credit card number, organizers said.
“I have had conversations with fellow event organizers who have the same issues and I think it is agreed we have to unite our voices and let as many people as possible know about these shady companies who prey on unknowing people within our industries,” NoCo organizer Beegle told Let’s Talk Hemp.
“I hope people share this article and I encourage other media outlets to cover this information and share with their audience,” he added.
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Jean Lotus is a Colorado-based award-winning journalist and hempreneur who writes about the American West and sustainable food and technologies.