I gave my boss’s credit card info to a scam company

A reader writes:

Every year our company sends a team to a national conference, and I help coordinate the room reservations and registration for this event. A couple weeks ago, I got a call at work from a woman calling on behalf of the conference. She wanted to know how many people we were sending this year. She then told me they’d recently reserved a block of rooms at a discount rate and were encouraging groups to go ahead and reserve our rooms. She said she’d transfer me to the hotel to make the booking. I popped into my boss’s office and ran it by her. We discussed how many staff we’d send this year, and then I went ahead and made the booking through the hotel rep I was on the line with for our group. He walked me through some online forms that included providing a credit card to hold the rooms.

Flash forward two weeks, and my boss found a charge for over a grand on her card from some mysterious travel company she doesn’t remember working with. My stomach dropped. After some panicked Googling, I discovered this scam company pulls past year registration lists from the internet and calls attendees posing as the conference to trick them into booking through them. They do hold the rooms for you (I called the hotel to check) but they also charge a crazy fee to do it. And when you call them to try to cancel, they point to the online contract you digitally signed that makes it impossible to cancel without a heavy fee (the exact fee they charged to her card, in fact).

Of course I’m freaking out at how stupid I am for not reading through all the fine print on what I had my boss digitally sign. What would you do in this situation? Help!

I consider myself fairly savvy, but I could absolutely see doing the same thing that you did, particularly in the middle of a harried day with lots of other things going on. I think a lot of people would — maybe even more than wouldn’t. (Which makes this a truly great scam, in fact.)

So I don’t think you should beat yourself up too much about this. Yes, you should have read the fine print — but you probably assumed it was a normal straightforward hotel transaction, arranged for you by the conference organizers, no less.

As for what to do now, apologize to your boss for not catching this, and tell her there are reports of the scam online, that you’re going to call the credit card company and see if there’s a way to do a charge-back, and that you’ll never again forward documents to her to sign without reading every word. (And do call the credit card company — because they might help you out when you explain the situation. Credit card companies usually don’t like scammers.)

And you might also call the conference organizers to alert them to this, because they could save other attendees this same drama by alerting them to the scam.

{ 105 comments… read them below }

  1. Ariancita*

    Perfect advice. I am almost 100% the credit card will do a charge back, especially if you have evidence for a scam. Even though your boss signed the contract, it was given under false pretenses.

  2. books*

    Holy F that’s uncool. Definitely call both the credit card company and the conference organizers and the hotel. And when you call the conference organizers, make sure you talk to someone who can and will do something about that.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      There might not be anything the conference organizers can do about it beyond notifying people of the scam. I wouldn’t expect much more than that.

      1. guest*

        If a scammer got hold of the attendee list from last year, the conference organizer is veru much responsible for the breach.

        1. Ariancita*

          Attendee lists can be very public, especially if they only contacted the presenters. There’s really no breach there.

          But they should alert the conference folks so that they can send out a warning to other attendees this year.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Not really. Those lists aren’t generally considered privileged information and lots of them are posted on the internet, along with pictures from conferences, etc…

          1. books*

            Exactly, I can pull information from conferences I’ve attended from the very public internet and see who else was there and what company they work at. Not hard to call a main line and be directed to Bob Smith from Chocolate Teapots Inc…
            The conference organizers should be able to contact the hotel to see what’s going on and they should be able to notify attendees as well.

      2. TheSnarkyB*

        Well, that’s not quite true – they can notify people, but they can also send out a list of their policies (a lá “We will never ask you for ____”), they also have way more sway with the hotel and any other contractors working on their behalf, so they could ask the hotel not to accept reservations from this scamming group and to not participate in the scam, or at lease to share information to get the issue resolved faster.

  3. Ruffingit*

    Absolutely open a dispute with the credit card company. It may be that they will not help because you did sign a contract with this company that you did not thoroughly read. I can absolutely see myself doing the same thing so no judgment. Just saying that you may find yourself eating this charge because you were informed of it in a contract that you signed without reading. Good luck and please let us know what happens.

    1. Arbynka*

      It depends. I had to file a chargeback. I digitally signed terms of service and agreement with this company that provides technical support for jail breaking iPhones. For some reason I cannot jail break my phone. Anyways, they provide the same free software I could find on the web but said they have support that can walk you thru the process. They also have some free apps, ringtones and such. So I signed contract for membership, then sent inquiry for help once, twice, three times. Nothing. So I filed charge back with my CC company, they gave me courtesy refund first, then after they investigated, the refund became permanent.

      Can I ask, do digital signatures hold the same “weight” as personal (in person) signatures ?

      1. Arbynka*

        Just to clarify, I am not saying that OP will get the CC refunded. As Ruffingit pointed out, they might not approve it. But I hope they will.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I hope they will also. I think things like this are wrong on many levels. I just wanted the OP to be prepared not to receive the refund because of the reasons I mentioned.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I’m glad you do. Having worked in the legal field, there are many people who say things like “But this is a scam, how can they not give me my money back?!!” and I’ve had to explain that unfair is not always the same as unjust in the court system. So now I always make it clear that while I think something is wrong, doesn’t mean the law or the credit card company sees it the same :)

              By the way, I LOVE YOUR AVATAR!!! What a cute puppy. My puppy is my baby and I just love seeing pics of other cute dogs too. :)

              1. Arbynka*

                Just like unfair is not always not legal.

                And thanks, I love that picture of my dog. He is actually two, but when he is curled up like that he does look like puppy, so much smaller. I adopted him out of shelter when he was seven weeks old. Poor thing still trying to be friends with our cats. They are both older cats, also both adopted, had them for fourteens years now. Sorry, got little OT

                1. Ruffingit*

                  No problem on off-topic, I can do dog talk all day :) I got my baby when she was 8 weeks old and she’s almost 7 (in December). She’s brought me more joy than I can ever describe in words.

                  Maybe the cats will lighten up. If not, perhaps they will continue to tolerate him and that’s good enough :)

                2. Jazzy Red*

                  It’s about time we had some dog talk around here! I have 2 furbabies, both rescued. They’re older dogs, and I cherish every day that I have with them. Do you remember seeing the dog who slept with Baby Jesus in the outdoor church nativity setup a couple of years ago? One of my kids looks JUST LIKE that dog.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This came up in a business law course I took. Long story short- yes.
        Ok, that is too short. Of course, there are other factors that weigh in and since each situation is unique then it behooves the buyer to check things out. I would go ahead and check things out just to be sure.

      3. Ruffingit*

        Generally speaking, yes they do carry the same weight. There are, as always, many exceptions to this, but the basic answer is yes.

        1. Arbynka*

          Thank you. I wanted to read up about it for a long time now but there is always something more urgent. But I find it interesting. I am kinda weird. I enjoy reading legal explanations, reasoning behind how and why things work the way they do.

      4. Contessa*

        Yes, a digital signature has exactly the same “weight” as a physical signature. However, the other party to the contract (the company that didn’t give you the support for which you paid) still has to hold up its end of the bargain.

      5. Mary*

        I contracted for a company that developed one of the many digital software signature programs. They do hold as much weight. In software companies, many are used for signatures on legal contracts between two companies. I have personally signed for trade shows, working with outside vendors, etc.

      6. anonymous*

        Speaking as someone who works with chargebacks directly, it depends on what type of card you used, and it depends on how far your issuing bank (if a bankcard – Visa or Mastercard) or card issuer (if not – Discover, AmEx, or smaller brands) is willing to fight the issue.

        Visa does not require issuing banks to honor digital signatures in any way. That said, your individual bank may opt to honor the signature anyway, but there’s nothing in the regs for it, and that’s their own stance that you can quite possibly pressure them into changing for you. They’re the farthest in your favor. Discover is on the far opposite end of the spectrum, if something is anywhere in the terms and conditions, signature or no, they will hold you to it. The others fall generally in the middle of that spectrum.

        Now, this is only with regard to the chargeback system; you can win a chargeback and still potentially get taken to court by the business, and there, legal rules will apply rather than card association regulations.

    2. Ariancita*

      Just fyi, contracts aside, CC companies often easily allow charge backs, regardless of contracts. They really don’t hold things to that high of a bar. They’re biggest concern is getting the money paid and they are therefore very likely to accept a charge back with little push back. Generally speaking, it’s very easy to get a CC to do a charge back.

  4. Harryv*

    I recall one time when I received a phone call from a said credit card company regarding a charge. They asked me to verify my cc info and as I was about to read off the first digits, I asked them to tell me the last 4. They hung up.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, that almost happened to me but with bank info. Some one called my house and left a message with my daughter that I needed to call them back. She left a generic name like Linda but no last name.
      The number that I called was very similar to my bank’s phone number, it was 1 digit off. So it seemed like it was an extension of the bank.
      When I called and asked for Linda, they ‘receptionist’ said ‘I’m not sure which Linda called you but if you give me your bank account #, I can look up your account and read the notes on why you were called’. I was so close but then I remembered that some one from the bank told me that they never ask for bank account numbers, they have them already and they can look you up by your name.
      That was really close.

    2. Clever Name*

      I’ve had collectors calling for a man with the same name as my husband. When I said they had the wrong person, they asked for his ssn to make sure. I said, “no, YOU give me the ssn and I’ll tell you if you’re right or not”. They hung up.

  5. Arbynka*

    I agree as well. This could happen to everybody because it is a very well constructed scam. Don’t beat yourself over it. Focus on damage control now. Contact credit card company and also the conference directors.

  6. EM*

    That is horrible! My heart goes out to you, OP. I could absolutely see myself doing the same thing. And I would panic as well. :(

  7. fposte*

    I would also recommend touching base with the conference organizers about this. They probably can’t do anything to fix it, but they might be able to warn people going forward.

    1. Contessa*

      I just bought a house, and we actually got a letter from the Recorder of Deeds warning us of a scam. We got the referenced scam letter the next day, so the warning was helpful (although I wouldn’t have paid some company in another state for a copy of my deed, I can see how other people could have fallen for it). The conference can send out a letter or email warning people (i.e. “We don’t have a hotel room block,” or “If you want the hotel room block, ONLY book through the website at such and such URL”).

      They also might be able to contact the police or state attorney general’s office, if someone is impersonating the conference. There is also an arguable trademark dilution claim, along with unauthorized use of the mark in commerce. All fun things they could discuss with their attorney . . .

      (obviously, this is not legal advice–everyone involved should consult a local attorney for specific advice)

  8. Not So NewReader*

    Your state attorney general might be verrry interested in hearing about this.

    I have to echo what Alison said. I probably would have bought into the scam myself.
    As a home owner, my rule of thumb is to say “I will call you back.” This has saved me a couple of heartbreaks, because it buys me some time. Now I see this is a good idea for work, too.
    (I had a guy stop here that was interested in fixing my roof. He kept saying that my neighbor knew him. I guess he never counted on me walking over and actually asking my neighbor. My neighbor had no idea who the guy was.)

    I don’t blame you if you are feeling a little embarrassed, even though the scammers are the ones who should be embarrassed, not you. I hope you can swallow that feeling long enough to report them. Remember scammers count on us to feel embarrassed and chose NOT to report them. Don’t fall for this last trap. You are a good worker, they are not.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      PS: If you can get a copy of the contract send that into the state, too. There might be some aspect of the contract that is not legal in your state. It’s a long shot but the state would probably want to look at it anyway.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, excellent point on the state’s attorney/attorney general. Ours has a pretty active office and would quite likely be interested.

      1. khilde*

        We do, too. In the past year I was at a hotel and in the evening I got a call on the in-room phone. I answered and the caller identified himself as an employee of the hotel and that they had a problem with the reservation system that night and lost all of their data. He had a plausibe sounding reason for needing my information, but my instincts told me there was no reason he needed it. Something was off. So I told him that I’d go down to the front desk and give them the info they needed. He was very polite and professional but backtracked and said, “well, there’s a long line–an hour or more wait–at the front desk.” I said I’d take my chances and ended the call. I almost burst out laughing because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt there weren’t even enough people staying at the hotel to make an hour’s wait! It was ridiculous.

        So I went to the front desk and started telling the story and the young employee said they had received a few other reports of the same thing happening. The employee came up to my room a while later to get some more details from me and when I told him the name the caller used to identify himself, the employee got a sick look on his face and said, “that’s the name of a guest that stayed with us earlier this week.” I felt so bad for the guest that fell for the scam and gave them his info. :(

        So I shot off an email to our state’s attorneys office letting them know what’s up. They replied so that was nice to know they take an active interest in stuff like that.

    3. Chinook*

      “Your state attorney general might be verrry interested in hearing about this.”

      I was thinking the same thing. In Canada you can call something called “Phone Busters” that is managed by the RCMP and provincial police and they would love to hear about this. They may not be able to get your money back, but they can’t prosecute and/or warn people about scams if they never hear about them. When a new scam comes out, they often contact local media to let the public know what to watch for.

    4. OP*

      Letting the state attorney general know was advice I got from our company lawyer too. He pointed out that BBB’s main function was to try to resolve disputes between the company and the customer. Since this scam company was doubling down on their position that we signed a contract, there wasn’t much to resolve in this case.

      1. fposte*

        My impression is that only honest businesses care about the BBB. (I also think they’re becoming a bit of an anachronism these days–they don’t have any disciplinary powers, and people are more likely to complain on the internet.)

    5. Manda*

      even though the scammers are the ones who should be embarrassed, not you

      You see, scammers tend to lack this little thing we call “empathy.”

  9. HR lady*

    In my first job out of college I got scammed kind of like this. They call it something like “phony toner.” Someone calls and says they are your copier rep, and it’s time to order new toner, and they have a special deal going on for a great price. I ordered 4 cartridges at something like $250 each ($1000). I then found out that we had a contract to get toner for “free” (it was part of the overall fee we paid each year).

    I explained to my boss and I don’t know if we could get our money back, but she wasn’t mad at me. Like Alison said, it’s very easy to fall for. It taught me a great lesson, and now I always proceed more cautiously with unsolicited phone calls and I’m much more skeptical than I used to be in those situations.

    By the way, the other way that scam worked is that they would first call and ask a generic question about what kind of copier you have – maybe the brand and model number. Maybe they pretended they were doing a survey. So then when they called back maybe weeks later, they’d sound like they knew what they were talking about (“we have a great deal on the T-157 cartridges for your Brother MCMM-4 copier”). So the other lesson learned was never to answer those innocent-sounding questions at work (like who is in charge of your accounting department, what kind of health insurance do you offer, what kind of computers do you have, etc.).

    1. Natalie*

      Yep, I got caught by an identical scam with a different product (online directory) during my first few months as a receptionist. My boss at the time told me about the scam she fell for early in her working life, which was for light bulbs.

      The reason people continue to run these scams is because they work, so generally I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Live and learn.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Toner phoners. That was a big scam for quite a while. Lots of people got hooked on that one.
      I am glad you mentioned that- because this reminded of the toner phoners.

      1. Arbynka*

        That sounds like pretty clever one as well. If only all the scams were as transparent as Nigerian prince needing money wire transfer for an air ticket to the USA so he can share his richest with you.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          You know, someone, somewhere must have fallen for that at least once, or they wouldn’t still be doing it.

      2. Natalie*

        Oh, there still around. We get calls all the time.

        With the scam calls, 99% of the time I can get them to just hang up with no further conversation by asking them what company they’re calling from. One very determined scammer claimed to be from our actual copier company (it’s the huge one) but agreed to send us something in writing. And of course, he was not from our copier company.

        1. Tina*

          Oh, I remember the toner ones! When I was a high school student, I worked in a bank in one of the back-end offices, and I got such a call. Thankfully, one of the full-time staff was there in the office with me when I got the call, so when I asked her what kind of copier it was, she explained the scam.

    3. Frances*

      Yup, me too. First job as the sole full-time admin employee for a medical practice, so I didn’t have anyone to check with.

      Years later they would occasionally call around the college I worked for and I delighted in informing them I knew exactly what they were up to and seeing how quickly they’d hang up.

    4. ChristineSW*

      I then found out that we had a contract to get toner for “free” (it was part of the overall fee we paid each year).

      This is why, if you’re in some sort of office manager/assistant/receptionist position, it’s a good idea to find out who are your employer’s normal vendors for office needs. I’m actually surprised you weren’t told about the contract as a matter of course.

      I learned that lesson here at home when a cop chased a guy (in a car) into my driveway; the guy claimed to be our lawn care provider, and I wasn’t sure who we used, so I actually had to call my husband at work to ask him. Now, I try to keep track of who we use because that sure was a close one!

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I used to get those all the time. Lucky I knew about it, or I might have done the same.
      One time someone called and it went like this.

      Scammer: “Hiiiii, this is Linda, with customer service on the copierrrr….”

      Me: “Oh, we don’t use a copier. We use carbon paper.”

      Scammer: “….Uhhh….”

      Me: “Bye!” *click*


      1. TychaBrahe*

        “It’s a Ford-Ujima.”
        “Ford-Ujima? Are you sure?”
        “Oh, yes. It says here right on the side: F U.”

  10. Lynn*

    I often make travel arrangements for my bosses for various conferences and trips, and I can see myself falling for this very thing. THANK YOU for posting this as a hard lesson-learned. Cheer yourself up with the fact that by submitting your story, you might save a lot of people from making the same mistake.

    And honestly, the hotel would probably want to know about this as well as the conference planners. It reflects badly on all of them.

    1. Nichole*

      Agree. I consider myself pretty cautious, and I could definitely see myself falling for this, and then beating myself up mercilessly over it. When I read this, I was simultaneously horrified at the scam and grateful to OP for talking about it here.

  11. Just A Thought...*

    If they continue to do this and people are successful in getting the charges reversed…that will ultimately jeopardize the scammer’s merchant account (their ability to accept credit/debit card payments).

    I use to own a retail and online store. That was one of the things we read in our Visa and MasterCard contract. There would be fees and possible closure of the merchant account if we had too many charge backs in a certain period.

    They’d probably just figure out how to scam and get another one though. I hope everyone notices and reports them.

    1. Chinook*

      “If they continue to do this and people are successful in getting the charges reversed…that will ultimately jeopardize the scammer’s merchant account (their ability to accept credit/debit card payments). ”

      I never thought about it that way but that is a good arguement for reporting the scam to the credit card company. Again, you may not get your money back but, if enough people complain, the scammer’s credit card access could be shut down.

  12. Brett*

    Was pretty easy to find the scam witha little searching. Looks like they are also talented at fighting chargebacks and usually win. Still can try, but might just have to write it off as a lesson learned.

    In addition to contacting the credit card company and the conference organizers, contact the hotel.

    The hotel needs to stop doing business with them. More importantly, the hotel has the ability to cancel a prepaid reservation, which might get you out of their contract.

    1. fposte*

      Excellent points. I also found that some associations holding conferences do have warnings about this on their websites.

      1. Arbynka*

        Yes, great points.

        I was also going to say when OP talks to the CC, give them as much information as you can.

    2. OP*

      I did call the hotel. Apparently they have no record of what company booked the reservation, just that it’s a “third party.” I told a couple people I talked to about what happened and they were mystified.

  13. Anonymous*

    Don’t give any information out to somebody who calls you. If you follow that simple rule, you’ll save yourself a lot of future heartache.

    Never, ever, ever give any kind of information to somebody who calls you. Ask for a name and number, and then call back through a number you already have that you know is legit.

    1. Marie*

      I used to do telemerketing, so many people gave us heir personnal information.

      On the other had, it was frustrating when they refused because that meant less comission for me.

  14. MiketheRecruiter*

    This would potentially get me, and I don’t fall for much. I think the red flag would be them not having my CC on file if they were reupping from the previous year…I got scammed once (I something much dumber than this), so I’ve been very, very cautious with stuff since.

    Fool me once, shame on you…

  15. AP*

    My WORST fraud story – my small company had a third party managing our phone contracts because, well, I don’t know why. But they called up to remind us that our contract was expiring and, instead of renewing, we should look into a new company. We ended up signing with the new company a month later – but in that month, Phone Company #1 auto-renewed our contract for 24 months. And then tried to charge us $22,000 to get out of it (this is for 6 phone lines. Seriously.) Of course, the third party managers mysteriously stopped taking our calls and returning emails, except to send us a Word doc of a law that should have made the auto-renew illegal but was not fully relevant.

    In the end, our lawyer settled with them for $3k rather than suing, but it still makes me so annoyed to think about it.

  16. OP*

    Thanks everyone! I was a little nervous submitting this since obviously it’s embarrassing to admit I was duped, but I felt really strongly that it was important to spread the word that this scam is out there. Thankfully my boss is wonderful and very understanding. I already felt terrible enough as it was, I shudder to think of what would happen to employee who had a less-than-understanding boss.

    We’re working with the credit card company and I’ve looped in our company lawyer. I did immediately file a BBB claim, and the scam company fired back with its lawyers arguing for the validity of the contract. As others have pointed out, it really depends on the CC company. Our lawyer has a couple other ideas of ways we can handle it (notifying the state attorney’s office is definitely on the list) depending what the CC company does.

    I did also immediately notify the conference organizer. She acknowledged it has happened in the past and she’d work on making a bigger warning notice on the website. She also said previous groups had been able to fight the CC charges so I’m hoping that resolves it.

    To add insult to injury, just yesterday the company called me AGAIN not realizing they’d already roped me in to see if I wanted to book rooms for this conference. I did what I should have the first time and hung up on them.

    As a commenter above noted: NEVER give out credit card info to someone who calls YOU.

    Lesson learned.

    1. Arbynka*

      Thank you for posting, OP. I think you handled it really well. Your boss sounds great. Good luck with everything.

    2. ChristineSW*

      I can DEFINITELY see myself falling for something like this in the midst of a chaotic workday! Glad you and your employer are working on getting this situation ironed out. These scamming companies are becoming increasingly savvy and persistent, so good luck!

    3. LJL*

      You have really performed a public service by letting us know of this. I hadn’t heard of it before. THank you.

  17. Brooke*

    I got pulled into a scam once by doing something very similar (giving out my cc number, not reading the fine print, etc.). I did manage to get out of mine with little hassle, but ever since then, I sign NOTHING until I read EVERY SINGLE WORD of what I am signing. I have been reading every word before signing for almost 10 years and it has seriously saved me a few times. The majority of the time, it’s standard things listed in those little paragraphs, but I never take that for granted anymore and I make sure to read before I sign every time! I strongly encourage all of my employees under me to do the same, which has also kept them out of trouble on several occassions!

    1. anon-2*

      My favorite all-time scam. And how I handled it.

      “You have won $50,000 in the Canada LOTTO!” OK.. “But all you have to do is pay the taxes, wire $2000 to …..”

      My reply –

      “This is GREAT! And I don’t have to pay the taxes! Don’t you know , Canadian citizens do not pay taxes on gambling winnings!”

      “Hey – tell you what. Give me your number, I have to dig out a bank passbook. I have an old account still active at Bank of Montreal, it has around eighty bucks in it, but you can just wire my winnings there… does that sound….”

  18. Noah*

    I got suckered into purchasing thousands of dollars worth of office supplies once. They called and were asking a ton of questions about what types of supplies we normally used. I was young (and dumb to the ways of scammers) and went through the entire supply closet telling them every single item that we routinely used.

    The guy told me he would be sending a catalog and special pricing. Turns out we received boxes and boxes of office supplies that I never ordered. Thankfully my boss was also very understanding. We also recorded all of our calls and the scam company agreed to send return shipping labels when we presented them with the call recording where it was clear I never agreed to an order.

    My rule ever since has been to never give out information to unsolicited callers. Sorry to all the salespeople, but I’m suspicious of everyone who appears to be trying to sell anything. If you are a legitimate company then a sale can wait a few days while I make a decision. If you cannot hold the price until then, I guess the sale isn’t worth it to you.

    1. Natalie*

      PSA for anyone in the US – the Federal Trade Commission considers un-ordered merchandise to be a gift. You don’t have to pay for it, and you don’t have to return it.

      1. Twentymilehike*

        Ooh that’s good to know! That must be why when Stapled ,Essex up my orders they always let me keep the merchandise …

  19. Emily*

    I *almost* fell for this scam earlier this year. What saved me is that I have been to this conference before and had never once booked through Generic, Yet Plausible Sounding Organization. I actually asked if we had used them in the past, why wasn’t I familiar with them? When the rep put me on hold to “pull up our past data,” I did a quick google search, found the scam, and hung up on him. I immediately shared the story with a co-worker who told me to tell the conference organizer. She’d received a few notifications about the scam, and so a notice was put on the website/FB pages, etc.

    They’ve called back a few times since, but at least now we know!

  20. FD*

    If they did in fact say they were going to transfer you to the hotel to make the booking, you can probably do a charge-back because they lied. However, if they didn’t say anything that was actually false it may be harder.

    There’s no law against third-party, non-cancellable reservations, unfortunately. But it IS illegal for them to misrepresent them as speaking for the hotel.

    1. OP*

      They did lie on the phone, but in the written contract they had us electronically sign it does say they aren’t affiliated with the conference or the hotel. They just have you submit the electronic signature on a separate page and then they stick the signature in under that language in the hopes you don’t read it. When we argued they lied, they just pointed to the contract that we electronically signed and said that it clearly stated they were a separate group.

      It’s a mighty good scam, I’ll tell you that.

  21. Rayner*

    First of all, I’m glad you ‘fessed up to your boss, and explained what happened. When people hide things like this out of shame for falling for a scam, then things can get frustrating and difficult.

    And yeah, for future reference covering ALL scams:

    a) Credit card companies, banks, and other money dealing industries will never cold call or email for no reason, asking you to confirm information or give out passwords or credit card numbers.

    If they ask you to confirm information because of a suspected scam (I had this happen to me >.> Brought airline tickets on a card I used for small purchases) then call them back. On a different phone. Sophisticated scams (possibly, only in Europe) work where they don’t actually hang up on the line, but pretend that you’re talking to a new person. So you trust them and give information then you’re left feeling bereft and out of money.

    Memorize your fraud contacts with the bank, and if you feel at ALL off about a transaction, phone and ask for information and advice.

    2) A bank will never come to collect your card in person, or have you mail it to an address. They may ask you to come to a BANK in town but never anything else.

    3) Make sure you’re familiar with all the firms that your company uses for supplies, technical support, and financial services – keep a list if necessary, along with contact information and reps if you have one that you deal with specifically. Ask /them/ to confirm what you have in terms of equipment or regular orders – never give them that information. If they are genuine, they’ll know.

    4) Read. Everything. As the OP found out, ‘good’ scams work with small print. Never sign anything you don’t understand, don’t have full access to, or think is incorrect but they ‘promise’ to fix it.

    If possible, get paper copies and have one for the company.

    4B) Never sign under pressure. If you’re being badgered to sign right now, don’t. Hard sales tactics like that hide poor deals because you aren’t given time to think.

    Ask for a rep in person, or say you will call them back again tomorrow. It will wait, and you may decide “actually, no. I don’t want it.”

    Confirm with another member of staff if possible.

    5) Trust the gut. It knows scams and doesn’t like them.

    6) If it’s too good to be true, it is. Don’t be swayed by smooth talk – it’s rarely ever good enough to be true, and when it is, you don’t need it.

    7) Google is your friend. Don’t be afraid to google company names, numbers, or the ‘offer’ while on the phone to check on the truth of the offer. You may prevent a scam in progress. You should be doing this especially if they called you with an offer, unsolicited and out of the blue.

    8) Fess up. If you hide it, you’ll end up in deeper trouble than if you honestly fell for a scam and told someone immediately.

  22. CanuckMom*

    My favourite current scam is the one where I get a call that “my windows PC might be compromised”. They will go on and on about how much I need their help to protect my windows PC. They just need remote access and some personal info. For some odd reason they don’t have much to say when I tell them that’s a neat trick since I don’t HAVE a windows PC. Scam city.

    1. anonintheUK*

      There is one going round at the moment where they claim to be a charity and that your husband/wife gave last year. Since I don’t have a husband, and if I did, would expect him to have the brains not to give money to random cold callers, that fell flat.

  23. fposte*

    “Brought airline tickets on a card I used for small purchases) then call them back. On a different phone. Sophisticated scams (possibly, only in Europe) work where they don’t actually hang up on the line, but pretend that you’re talking to a new person.”

    Oh, I saw this on a Nigerian scam forum–somebody got nailed exactly like this. Of course when you dial a number that you found yourself and somebody else answers, you assume it’s right; apparently they even would play the ringing sounds to sustain the illusion that the call had gone through. I would have had no idea! (Interestingly, I remember when landlines worked like this–the connection would only be severed if the caller hung up.)

    1. Rayner*

      Yeah, there was a post about it on Slate here http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/08/debit_card_fraud_how_one_man_unwittingly_helped_criminals_steal_from_him.html

      And basically, it worked by exploiting the fact that the callee could not physically disconnect the call, and the scammer would basically mimic passing you through different levels e.g by making ringing phone noises etc.

      Although it’s unlikely to work the same in the modern world of cellphones – I think. My technological understanding is basic at best – it still should connect you to a) the bank officially, and b) a different person who can talk you through whatever’s happening.

      I think it was a little before I started using phones regularly but it never hurts to be aware of it.

  24. Elizabeth West*

    If this scam should show up in an email, call the hotel to verify it. You’re right, OP; this was a good one.

    More points in general re scams:
    1) No one is going to give you money if you reply to their email. Bill Gates does not know your name, and there is no Nigerian or any other prince. Sorry.

    2) UPS or FedEx won’t call or email you about a misdirected package. If you’re lucky, they’ll find it when you call them. Even then, they’ll tell you to call the shipper; that person has to instigate a claim. So if you’re expecting something and you don’t get it, call the shipper.

    3) If you get an email threatening you with arrest re a debt you owe (or don’t), it’s probably a scam. Do not reply; merely report to the link I posted below.

    4) The FBI, IRS, DEA, or any other government law enforcement agency will NEVER email you. They will either send you a letter or show up at your door. If you’ve been doing something wrong, an agent might call you and ask you some questions (which shouldn’t be a surprise to you!), but they will not ask you for your information. Believe me, they already know everything about you by that time. Yes, the IRS has agents. Yes, they carry guns. They get the same bad-ass training all the other feds get, at the same place (except for FBI; they have their own place).

    Exception to the FBI email: If you sign up on their website, you get all these cool emails re crime alerts, updates, etc. :D

    If you get an email that looks like a scam, you can report it here: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. Don’t delete the email before you do this; you will probably need the header info and/or the return email addy. This link brought to you by the FBI.

  25. Manda*

    I hope that the OP and anyone reading this thread learn from this and start reading the fine print. Whenever I sign up for something or install software or whatever, I usually read the privacy policy and terms of service. Maybe not word for word, but I at least skim through it. I hate signing anything in front of someone though, cause I feel a little pressured to be quick. If I have to sign something at the bank or whatever, I’ll try and skim over it quick, but then I usually trust that they aren’t BSing me when they tell me what I’m signing for. I’ll read my copy a little more thoroughly at home. A bank is more trustworthy than some douchebag on the phone though. But this is exactly the root of the scam here. They’re taking advantage of people who don’t read forms before signing. See also: South Park episode, “HumancentiPad.”

  26. Wendy M. Grossman*

    This was a very clever scam. I think some people are missing a key point: this situation really isn’t about reading the fine print (although that’s always a good idea) but about social engineering and phishing attacks. *Any* time you get a phone call from someone you don’t know that leads to asking for financial details, passwords, or a financial transaction you should ask for a name, company name, and phone number, and say you’ll call back so you have time to think about whether the call is likely to be legit. And also so you can check them out before you commit yourself to anything. I would definitely involve the credit card company. You are not going to be the only victim.


    1. Rayner*

      I think it is about social engineering and such but the OP themselves said it was about the small print.

      “They did lie on the phone, but in the written contract they had us electronically sign it does say they aren’t affiliated with the conference or the hotel. They just have you submit the electronic signature on a separate page and then they stick the signature in under that language in the hopes you don’t read it. ”

      It is about being aware of people calling and what they want, but it’s also about reading and understanding what you’re signing.

  27. Bex*

    Ugh .. not the same thing, but reminded me of a big goof I made while working for my friends’ florist shop years ago .. the owner had warned me to always be leery when getting a phone order for goodie baskets where the people kept adding stuff – and he knew it exactly – a gourmet food or goodies basket and they always add in balloons and a stuffed animal. Of course that one was a bit difficult to catch, because we sold lots of baskets and frequently people wanted a stuffed animal and/or a balloon. What should have alerted me was that the woman wanted it delivered to a motel room (but again .. that’s really not so strange, could be a welcome gift for a traveler). Anyway, she got me .. $150 order, I took it, took her credit card info – and of course it was rush order. A couple weeks later, I got notice through our credit card system that a payment to us was being reversed .. stolen credit card .. and yep, it was that goodie basket that perfectly fit the description my boss had warned me about, and had told me that in those cases, I should always call the credit card company to verify that the card was valid and had not been reported stolen .. he was constantly worrying about silly things (he once came and told me, right in front of a customer, that if I made teetee or doodoo in the potty, to not flush the toilet paper because the toilet was clogging! Out loud, in front of a customer!), and so I had not followed his advice about verifying the credit card, thought he was just being a namby pamby. The lady placing the order was perfectly nice over the phone, after all! Surely she wasn’t a thief! Yeah … I was so embarrassed having to tell my boss what had happened, and there was absolutely nothing we could do to recoup (thankfully, at least, I did know that there was a huge profit margin on these gourmet baskets, and we had lost nowhere near the full amount of the lost payment .. but that did not make me feel any better about having been scammed in the exact way he had warned me about, and he had told me to verify credit cards before filling an order of that sort …. and instead I was satisfied that the credit card charge went through. Of course it’s possible the card had not been reported stolen at that point, anyway … ). I only fell for that one once, thank goodness!!

    And please excuse my rambling .. no surprise that I can’t seem to write a short cover letter, hahaha!!

    1. Ruffingit*

      I hope your boss was understanding when you told him about the gift basket. That kind of thing can happen to the best of us.

      1. Bex*

        I had to endure some fussing and grouching from him, but yes, he knew that it was an honest mistake on my part and it was the only time such a thing had happened on my watch. It was just such a weird thing for me to even be able to believe, that someone would use a stolen credit card to order a gourmet basket with a stuffed animal and a mylar balloon .. I mean, WHY would someone do such a thing? But there it was, he was right. He let it go pretty quickly despite my having not believed his prior warning, thank goodness :)

  28. lorie*

    Thanks for the heads up! I may not be an event’s organizer and I haven’t received a call like that yet but if I would, I surely recognize the scam and report it to Callercenter.com to raise a warning.

Comments are closed.