BBB scam alert: As holiday trade shows go virtual, scammers are cashing in

Over the past two years, many local in-person events, such as pop-up holiday markets or craft fairs, have moved online. Although the worst of the pandemic is behind us, research from Accenture shows that consumer interest in virtual events has intensified over the past two years. Businesses have also recognized the new opportunities offered by hosting virtual events.

This holiday shopping season, some event planners are continuing to take advantage of the virtual space and are hosting events online. This means that scammers can reuse last year’s trick – creating fake copy events that charge admission and steal your credit card information.

How the scam works:

You hear that your town’s annual holiday market or other business event will be held virtually this year. You search for it online and find a social media post or event page. In addition to moving online, another big thing is different this year. The event, which was free in the past, now requires a paid ticket. You enter your credit card number and personal information, such as full name and address.

Unfortunately, the “ticket” is a scam! The event information you found has been posted by scammers and is not affiliated with the real holiday market. Scammers create fake event pages, social media posts, and emails to trick attendees into sharing their credit card information.

In another twist on this scam, some virtual vacation marketplaces have a website or social media page where sellers can post photos of their products and links to their websites. Be careful here too! Some consumers have reported to BBB that they clicked on the links provided, thinking they were leading to an online store. Instead, the sites downloaded malware.

Tips for avoiding holiday event scams:

  • Is there an admission fee? Visit the event website to see if you need to purchase an entry ticket for the virtual event. Otherwise, watch for scammers trying to claim otherwise. If this happens, send a message to the event coordinator to prevent other virtual attendees from being scammed.
  • Find the providers and the host. If the event is unfamiliar to you, research the host and vendor list ahead of time. When browsing virtually from one kiosk to another, be sure to only click on the links provided. If you are unsure if a store is legit, search online for that vendor’s store rather than following the link provided.
  • Use a credit card. When shopping, use your credit card. That way, if something gets charged that wasn’t supposed to, you can file a claim with your credit card company.
  • Keep your receipts. Write down all your purchases and keep your receipts. If you have a product question or need to make a return, you’ll have the seller’s information at your fingertips.
  • Know the return policy. Before making a purchase, ask the seller about their return policy so you don’t have any problems after the holidays.

Source: BBB.org and Upstate New York Better Business Bureau.

Learn more about pop-up shops and event scams at BBB.org. Learn more about online event scams at Event Industry News. Click here for BBB’s tips for buying event tickets. If you have been targeted by this scam, help others by filing a scam report at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Thanks to Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York for their contributions to this article.


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