Combatting Impersonation Scams
Imagine your conference attendees show up at your event only to find they don't have overnight accommodations - even though they have confirmations indicating they made reservations online. Unfortunately, this scenario happened to dozens of associations that fell victim to impersonation scams.
In September, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a rule to fight government and business impersonation scams like this. It's an issue that has cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars over the past five years. For associations and conference organizers, the scams have included using copyrighted event names and logos to sell attendee lists, attracting attendees to fraudulent websites for conference hotel bookings, and luring exhibitors into buying fictitious space.
The proposed rule would codify the well-understood principle that impersonation scams violate the FTC Act, as do those who provide impersonators with the means to harm consumers. In addition, the proposed rule would allow the Commission to recover money from, or seek civil penalties against, scammers who harm consumers in violation of the rule.
The FTC sought public comment on the proposed rule through mid-April and held an informal hearing on May 4. The association community was well represented at the hearing, having testimony from representatives of the Consumer Technology Association, Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the American Society of Association Executives, USTelecom – The Broadband Association, the American Bankers Association, INCOMPAS, and the Internet & Television Association.
MSAE will keep you posted on the next steps related to this proposed rule. Meanwhile, associations and conference organizers must remain vigilant about monitoring their online presence, communicate clear instructions to customers/members regarding using only association-approved URLs, and encourage members and customers to notify the association immediately if they notice anything amiss in their customer journey.