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Industry labels name and shame list as 'unprofessional'

Events professionals divided over attendee blacklist, while authors say "we've done our job"

Pictured: one of the blog pages linked from the blacklist that was emailed out on Monday, which is an entire page devoted to one alleged scammer

Industry professionals have divided over the circulation of a 'name and shame' list of alleged scammer event attendees, as the anonymous authors behind it say "we've done our job".

Reactions to the controversial list are varied, with some events professionals saying it was time to "root these fraudsters out" while others call it 'unprofessional', arguing it is the organiser's responsibility to properly screen attendees.

The blacklist in question was distributed on Monday from a Gmail account, and lists in detail the characteristics, contact details and attendance history of 31 people alleged to have no valuable connection to the events industry. The list was emailed to attendees of the Association Meetings Conference, prompting conference hosts to quickly stress they had nothing to do with it.

Speaking with M&IT, one of the authors of the list said: "If it's [sic] kickstarted a debate and will make some people think twice before attending events, then we've done our job. This isn't something that can be solved venue by venue, event by event."

Asked what the make-up of the authors of the list were, the spokesperson said it was a mixture "suppliers, some venues, some caterers, photographers, etc". The spokesperson said research was done face to face with "some of the largest venues and event agencies, leading hotel chain and conference organisers" in order to obtain the details of the 31 alleged scammers.

The spokesperson continued: "Over the past few years, we've been watching the same folks come to all kinds of events and you cannot help but  "compare notes" even inadvertently. After a while, patterns emerged, yet nothing seemed to change. We thought maybe it was because other people didn't know, so the idea was to try and gather as much information from as many people as possible (sometimes clandestinely) and then synthesise the results. Some of it might seem a bit harsh, and the creative names aren't ours, but if that's how people are known or can easily be described, then we've kept them. It's not about being mean, but if you strip away all the "colour" it can be hard to identify the people and then the wrong people might be identified (it's hppaned) as it can be difficult to tell by pointing when people are always together or work for the same organisation. So that's us in a nutshell."

One M&IT reader commented: "Hosts are responsible for who they invite to events/fams, if they get their fingers burnt by the odd freeloader it is down to them to learn from their mistakes and compile a different invite list next time. Simple."

Another added: "I recognise that this is a problem sometimes but surely to curb it, all it takes is a little more vetting of the invite list and a more rigorous door policy?"

Elena Clowes from the International Live Events Association (ILEA) called it "v unprofessional" and Kevin Jackson agreed, adding: "The professional thing to do would be to check credentials and validate every name."

But support has also been expressed for the list, with Chetan Shah of Micebook saying: "I agree it is up to each organisation to vet their attendees but also if there are some serial fraudsters then it would be good to know…"

Another anonymous M&IT reader added: "I would love to take a look at that list and compare it to mine which I have been compiling over the last few years … let's root these fraudsters out!"

  • Darren Peters 24/09/2017

    Some may call this approach “unprofessional” but deep down even they know that it’s necessary. Here’s why. When you take a step back and really look at how these freeloaders operate, you realise that in order to beat them, you’ve got to play them at their own game. They don’t play by the rules and so neither should we. In an ideal world we’d have an open and frank discussion with all potential attendees about what they do and for whom they do it. We all know that this would be a waste of time because these blaggers know how to game the system. They know what answers to give and will provide “friendly” references to support their fraudulent claims. They even latch onto genuine event professionals or those working in large, well known organisations and use their emails or plus one allocations. Failing that, they create legitimate sounding (but non-existent) company names and work titles to fool even the most seasoned conference producers. For example, there’s one massive fraud who’s created a very seductive persona; one which people just assume to be true. But dig a little deeper and you see a rocketmail email address, which should be your first clue. Add that to the fact that there’s no company by that name, no address, no telephone number, no website, no online presence (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and no clients, and the fraud quickly unravels. But many organisers don’t go into that much detail on each registration because they don’t have time and the liggers exploit this to their advantage. So naturally this type of industry list gives organisers a head start by red flagging the worst offenders. As for the rather colourful and vivid descriptions, we’d argue that these too are necessary. There’s no point in saying “middle aged white male in a suit” because that helps nobody. But if you say a “bearded, smelly, Welshman” then everyone knows who that is. It doesn’t matter what name he gives or what fake company he claims to work for, everyone will know who it is and can escort him out when he arrives. This is the only way you will improve the quality of your attendees. We do surveys after every event and the number one complaint of the sponsors, suppliers and co-hosts is the number of time-wasters, many of whom are well known industry wide. We will use whatever methods are necessary to keep these people out. If you choose not to, then they’ll just come to your events and you continue to feed them, but we’ve had enough!

  • Event Buyer 14/07/2017

    I don't think it's unprofessional or unwarranted. Time and time again, we get invited to events and see the same people who us attendees know don't have any role in purchasing or planning events. Organisers need guidance in this regard. Otherwise it becomes self fulfilling (i.e., people are okay to attend because they were at a previous event and so they must have been properly vetted by that organiser). Something has to break the cycle and perhaps this list will do just that.

  • Anonymous user 13/07/2017

    After being at the receiving end of having to entertain time-wasters 25 years in this industry, I would certainly appreciate my colleagues sharing information they have on who these people are. If we all stand together in this, the phenomenon will eclipse.

  • Anonymous user 13/07/2017

    Ultimately, if there was someone committing credit card fraud or something alike we would share it (aleast within our local industry network group) as with any known scams or security threats. It all boils down to whether we allow everyone to make the same mistake or share our knowledge so others don't suffer the same challenges, this is no different in my view. Granted, it should however be handled with care.

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