The offer arrived in my Inbox: would I like to speak at the UN Conference on Sex Trafficking in New York? Now I’m clever, and knew it was a fake; the UN doesn’t work that way; the message was full of strange linguistic patterns and dubious spelling; and the organiser had a number that starts 0703; these are non-geographic numbers.
So I called them. The organiser’s name was Dave Smith, allegedly based in London, although he had a surprisingly non-British accent, and indeed we struggled to communicate because of a strange time lag, as clearly London had moved.
I then used a dummy email account to apply for a speaking slot. My title: “You Save Fallen Women? Save Me Some.” My strapline; “New Business Opportunities in Adult Entertainment for Victims of Sexual Exploitation.” And the Speaker? “Professor Dick Throb-Lust, University of Erotica.”
Ridiculous, of course. But not as ridiculous as the acceptance for my submission that came though less than an hour later. And the catch? My airfares and accommodation were all paid for; now could I just sent the administration fee – £450, to be sent by Western Union – and I’d be good to go?
Now, dear reader; I confess to having a black sense of humour and an intolerance for intolerance. But sex trafficking and exploitation? Not really a laughing matter. So the fact that these scumbags are trying a new scamming angle using this subject makes me very angry, and in an ideal world I’d have a few minutes with them in a small room with my trusty claw hammer. Alas, life is not always fair.
But whilst these scams are not new (although this a newish permutation) there are people who fall for them. Take the Expo Guide example; a bunch of crooks who have moved round the world, narrowly avoiding arrest, who take exhibition guides, mail all the exhibitors an apparently free listing form, and then reveal that this is a three year order for the sum of around £3000 which offers no cancellation and will be severely enforced.
Utter crap, right? Well last year I had two different companies approach me and tell me they were being hounded by Expo Guide, as some junior person had been suckered in to signing the form. One person got on the phone that minute when I explained the scam; tragically we were seconds late in preventing payment. The other person remembered my wisdom when the call came through, and managed to secure my advice (which is to give Expo Guide a short response, involving sex and travel.)
Now, considering how many lucky companies received my training last year, that’s 1% who have been suckered in by these tosspots. At £3000 a time it’s clearly worth it; do the math as they say.
So please remember the principle of caveat emptor (buyer beware) and don’t assume everyone who works in business is as sweet or honest as you and me. Even if you have signed, Hang on to your money, and don’t be bullied.
By the way, someone is doing their bit for you. The Expo Guide application form comes with a reply-paid envelope, which means they pay the postage, all the way to Spain, or Honduras, or wherever the scumbags are this week. Last year I sent three of their forms back, with the envelope fastened securely to a beautifully wrapped house brick. Ouch, that bill will have hurt.
They haven’t learned; they’ve just targeted the visitors to this year’s fantastic Confex – me included. This year it’s a breeze block. Aren’t you glad I’m on your side?