With many of 2020s events, conferences, and shows being postponed or outright cancelled, many artisans are out of regularly relied upon summer revenue. A lot of vendors have moved their sales to personal websites or online marketplaces such as Facebook groups, Etsy, Shopify, etc., but the longing for in-person shows is definitely felt within the maker community.
There are many Facebook vendor groups locally that aim to share events, sometimes connecting artisans with organizers looking to fill spaces in their upcoming shows, sometimes just promoting opportunities to shop local. That being said, recently we’ve been seeing a massive uptick in show scammers. Similar to questionable characters scalping their supposed tickets in comment sections of Facebook events, you will find in craft and vendor show groups. Their posts usually look convincing enough, especially if you’re new to the craft circuit in your area. Sometimes the description is even copied from legitimate events! But with some quick vetting of their ad and their profile, usually it’s pretty easy to spot a scammer in their tracks.
Always screenshot questionable profile material before making any mention of scam suspicions in their post, on the off chance they block you and you need proof to send to the admins of the group they posted in.
Things to look for in a potential scam:
Where is the event located?
Is the address correct? If so, check the venue’s website for any mention of the event.
What is the cost of the event?
As you get to know your area, you’ll see trends in show prices for certain venues (usually due to high rental costs). Some venues will cost big bucks to vend at (EY Center, Ottawa Conference Center, Shaw Center to name a few). If it is at a large-scale venue but costs a small-scale venue price, question it. If it looks like a duck but quacks like a dog, something doesn’t add up.
Who is the organizer?
Is it the person making the Facebook post? This is something else that will come with local show circuit experience. As you attend more events, you’ll meet fellow artisans and often see familiar faces of organizers around. While sometimes people hold one-off shows, generally you’ll see the same 10ish people hosting many of the shows you’ll see around town. The one-off shows aren’t necessarily scams, but as someone who was burned last year on a first time show, I’m personally very hesitant to front the money to attend something that has the potential to flop.
Check the website out, click through the links to their social media. Does the social media reflect the type of show you’d like to be a part of? Is it established? Do they have an audience? Do they post relevant content?
Check the organizer’s profile
Speaking of the organizer, if they’re the one making the Facebook post, take a look at their profile. Was their profile recently made? Do they have a profile photo and cover photo? Is it the same person in all their photos? Do they have friends listed? What is their supposed location? What about their profile link (you can check this by clicking the button with 3 dots next to the message button on their profile); does their link name match their name? What are their ‘liked’ pages or groups they’re in on Facebook? Who has commented or reacted to their pictures or posts? It may seem creepy or overkill to check all these things out on someones profile, but often these are key to figuring out if someone is legit or not. If you notice the page likes, friends list, groups they’re in, comments made from friends are all from other countries (or from people in other countries) it may denote that the person is somewhere other than where they are claiming to be. (I’ve dealt with ticket scammers claiming to be selling tickets to sold out events in Ottawa, and their Facebook location is somewhere in the states. Why would someone in Wisconsin be selling tickets to an Ottawa event?)
How are they requesting payment?
Generally in Canada, E-transfers are relatively standard for small show payments. Other organizers use online shop portals for credit card payments or use PayPal.
If you are using PayPal for a vendor fee payment, ensure its sent as Goods And Services, NOT Friends and Family, so that if the person is fraudulent, you can make a claim with PayPal.
If they ask for alternative payment methods such as Cashapp, Venmo, Western Union, Facebook Pay, or Circle Pay, run fast and far away; these money transfer methods are not available in Canada, and asking for those is a red flag that they arent aware of the payment methods we have in Canada.
Do note that when paying by e-Transfer you lack the protection provided by paying with a credit card or with PayPal Goods and Services. It is important to be sure about who you’re sending money to.
When in doubt, ask others how they feel about the ad.
Your fellow vendors may spot something suspicious that you missed. Getting a second opinion is always a good idea, as everyone will view something with different eyes. While as crafters, creators, artisans, and makers, we definitely all have things we would rather be doing than digging through Facebook profiles, these are just some steps you can take to keep yourself safe from the scammers who are trying to advertise fake events.
We are all missing shows incredibly – it can be so tempting to try and jump right back in. But it is so important to keep ourselves protected.
ShowWiz.ca is an online resource that offers a comprehensive calendar of craft and vendor shows and a vendor directory. Currently serving Eastern Ontario and the National Capital Region, ShowWiz.ca works to connect vendors, organizers, and shoppers with opportunities that work for them.