The publishers of Gallon Environment Letter have recently been receiving an increasing number of emails promoting environmental and social responsibility conferences that will not happen. For some it is obvious immediately, from the poor quality of English language used, that the announcement is a scam, but recently we have seen conference promotions that are quite well written and that are backed up with websites with programs, exhibitor applications, accommodation details, and all the rest of the trappings. A significant number of the scam conferences purport to be organized by a United Nations organization across two cities, one in the US and one in a developing country, but even this is by no means a certain identifier.
GallonDaily recommends that readers never communicate with a conference organized by an agency with which they are not totally familiar. Scammers are even using names which are similar to actual agencies that may be recognized by readers of their emails. The following steps are suggested if you are interested in a conference but not fully familiar with the organizing agency:
- never reply to a conference invite email. Instead, go to the conference website, check it out as recommended below, and then reply with a fresh email.
- check with one or more of the listed speakers to make sure that they are actually scheduled to speak at the conference. Most speakers will be pleased to be in touch with someone who is interested in their session, or, if the conference is fictitious, will be outraged, but pleased to have been made aware, that their name is being used to promote it.
- check with the hotel or conference centre at which the event is to be held. Hotels and conference are usually quite pleased to confirm that a particular event is scheduled for their facility and they will usually have obtained a cash deposit for reservation of the facility, something that scammers are unlikely to have paid.
- check with the agency sponsoring the event, most easily by entering the name of the agency, surrounded by double quotes, into Google or your favorite search engine. If a quality search engine cannot find the name of the agency as used in the conference announcement you can be pretty sure that the event does not exist.
- never give upfront money or credit card information to a conference organizer to cover your air travel or accommodations. Take a few extra minutes to arrange your own air travel and hotel with a reputable travel agent, airline, or hotel chain. It will probably save you money and will ensure that your tickets and reservation actually exist. Despite claims that conference organizers can get you better rates, it is GallonDaily’s experience that ‘conference’ rates at hotels are often inflated above those available through other channels and that a much cheaper rate is often available at a hotel just a short walk away from the conference.