Meeting Mentor Magazine

May 2024

See You in Court, Conference Scammers

Look out, fraudsters who like to impersonate event organizers by stealing conference names, logos and mailing lists. The FTC has ruled that it now can take those scammers to court and hit them where it hurts most — their wallets.

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized an anti-impersonation fraud rule that will hopefully finally put some teeth into laws against scammers who pretend to be an event organizer in order to sell attendee lists or housing. The recently finalized rule, officially titled the Trade Regulation Rule on Impersonation of Government and Businesses, gives the FTC the power to directly file federal court cases designed to force this specific type of con artist to pay back their ill-gotten gains.

Those specifically in the FTC’s crosshairs include scammers who use business logos when communicating with consumers by mail or online; those who spoof business emails and web addresses, including using lookalike email addresses or websites that rely on misspellings of a company’s name; and those who falsely imply business affiliation by using terms that are known to be affiliated with a business. While this has been a problem for event organizers — and other businesses — for years, and has always been a violation of the FTC Act, it was difficult to enforce. With the new rule, the FTC said in a blog post, “the FTC can seek consumer redress and civil penalties, powerful tools that hit scammers where it hurts: in the wallet.”

“For far too long, scammers have preyed on the business events industry with their hotel reservation scams and attendee list sale scams,” said Vinnie Polito, Society of Independent Show Organizers chief executive officer and co-president of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA). “Now the FTC will have stronger tools to go after those who target our industry, and we strongly encourage the agency to do just that.”

This final rule is something that the ECA, along with its alliance partners and other business events industry leaders such as the Consumer Technology Association, the American Society of Association Executives and IAEE’s Major American Trade Show Organizers group, have been actively advocating for more than two years. As  Tommy Goodwin, FASAE, CAE, PMP, CMP, ECA vice president, said, “Advocacy works!”

“Scammers targeting the business-events industry unfairly harm the small businesses, entrepreneurs, exhibitors, and nonprofit organizations that we work tirelessly to support,” said Marsha Flanagan, CEM, president and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events and ECA co-president. “That’s why our industry was front and center in advocating for this important new rule, and we commend the FTC for finalizing it with a unanimous vote.”

The final Government and Business Impersonation Rule will become effective 30 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register, which is unknown at this time.

The FTC has also issued a “supplemental notice of proposed rule-making” designed to extend the new rule’s protections against those who want to scam through impersonating individuals — something that artificial intelligence is making all-too-easy to do. As the FTC said in its notice, “Emerging technology — including AI-generated deepfakes — threatens to turbocharge this scourge, and the FTC is committed to using all of its tools to detect, deter, and halt impersonation fraud.”

The agency now is opening the supplemental notice to public comment.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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