2018 marked the fifth annual Exhibitors Day and one of the major issues discussed was housing poachers. In June 2018, convention industry members went to Capitol Hill to bring to light that there are “15 million fraudulent online bookings scams” every year. That’s $1.3 billion in booking scammers’ pockets!
Whether you’re an attendee booking one room or an exhibitor booking massive room blocks in Austin, these unethical scammers target registrants for the Gerontological Society of America’s (GSA) Annual Scientific Meeting 2019. They have no affiliation with GSA. Read below to understand the practices of event housing poachers, how to identify them and how to stop them before arriving to the Austin Convention Center.
How they do it
Conference poachers source companies’ contact information from promotional material and unauthorized use of databases and lists. They then try to look as convincing as possible with a fake website and may practice trademark infringement with their email addresses and logos. When they get someone to answer the phone or reply to an email, they use scare tactics to create urgency with the event registrants.
The contact information for Expovision: GSAs Official Hotel Reservation Office is email@example.com and (866) 774-0486 (toll free). Expovision is the only certified event housing vendor for the meeting.
How to notice them
They bombard you with phone calls and emails
If your phone is ringing off the hook from someone claiming to be from the event’s housing provider, then they aren’t legit. Keep this in mind when reviewing an unknown email address or voicemail: Scammers market like Spammers. Housing pirates don’t have to worry about maintaining positive relationships with the conferences, hotels or the thousands of attendees. Expovision, the official third-party housing office respects people’s time and doesn’t misuse the contact information that GSA management shares with them. Email marketing is conducted strategically. Expovision, the convention housing vendor provides useful information like the dates when inventory opens and the cut-off to book within the official room block at the discounted rates.
The deadline to book with Expovision is October 18. The deadline to book in the student room block is October 9.
The deals are too good to be true
Be cautious if you’re being offered rooms at national hotel chains that have prices more fit for a motel. These hotel poachers also don’t have their room rates published online, so the attendee can only take their word on the unsolicited phone call. In comparison Expovision, the official housing office negotiates the lowest rates with the hotels and are transparent with how the savings stack up compared to travel websites. How does Expovision get these great deals? The team goes on-site to check hotels and prepares hotel contracts years in advance.
A full deposit is required
A housing pirate doesn’t honor the price quoted on the phone and once they have someone’s credit card information they may charge not only full deposits, but also undisclosed cancellation fees and nonrefundable charges. This is a major red flag and can leave the booking victim with losses of thousands of dollars. Any company requiring full prepayment should be viewed with extreme suspicion.
A deposit of first night’s room rate plus tax is required to confirm your reservation with Expovision.
Their online presence is murky
A true partnership between an association and housing management company is easy to find online. Not sure of the name of your event’s housing office? Head over to the show’s website where they have their housing office’s contact information for attendees and exhibitors. Another way to call out illegitimacy is if the convention doesn’t mention them on their social media channels or mass emails. That’s a sign that they are a rogue wholesaler.
How to stop them
Report the poacher: We strive to protect our clients’ registrants from conducting business with room pirates. If you have been solicited by an illegitimate room poacher, please report them immediately to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay educated: Read exhibitor newsletters and emails from the official event housing office (Expovision) and GSA. These messages will mention any news such as new poachers, known scams, new hotels, low inventory and more.