Digital technology is an integral part of the speaking industry, creating new considerations when it comes to marketing and business development. Speakers want to build their business and connect with clients who are interested in paying for their services. But, unfortunately, there are scammers who take advantage of hungry speakers who are looking for new gigs.
Online scams are common in many industries, but the occurrence has recently increased for speakers. Here at eSpeakers, we want to help you be aware of potential scams so that you can keep yourself protected.
Signs of a Speaking Scam
If someone is trying to scam you, then it is likely that a few red flags will pop up. You can research your potential client to learn more information about the individual or company. This research will help you avoid potential issues.
These are some of the red flags that might indicate that someone is trying to scam you:
- Grammatical Errors: Does the website or email request have poor grammar? Sometimes, the grammatical errors are a deliberate attempt to get past email spam filters. Or, the scam might be set up by someone abroad who is a non-English speaker. If you receive an email like this, don’t click on the links or download any attachments because they might include malware or viruses to steal information from your computer.
- Full Payment Upfront: Typically, the payment schedule includes half of the payment upfront and the rest is paid after the event. If someone is offering to pay the full fee upfront, then there could be a problem. Sometimes, the scammers will promise a great opportunity and make it attractive with a big payment. But, make sure that you do your homework and don’t block out your schedule until you have verified the legitimacy of the event.
- Premature Request for Commissions Payment: When an event organizer contacts you and requests that you pay a commission to be accepted as a speaker, make sure that you verify the identity of that person. Be sure that they are actually working on the event, instead of posing as someone who is involved.
- Vague Requests: If you receive a request inquiring about “your services” without specific details, then it could be a mass email sent to thousands of people. Be cautious of these contact requests.
- Asking for Personal Information: When you are having an online correspondence or a phone call with a potential client, are they asking for unusual information? Don’t give out details such as your banking numbers, social security number, or address.
- Free Email Account: Is the request coming from a Hotmail or Gmail address? Then you need to ask for additional information to ensure the person is affiliated with the business or event.
- Asking for Free Services: There are some events that request speakers to participate for free, with the promise that there will be other industry insiders interested in hiring you in the future. Or, they could request that you come for free with the potential for other bookings if the customers like your message. Don’t be fooled into working for free! Instead of agreeing to donate your time, you might consider adjusting your fee for the first appearance.
- Wrong Contact Info: When a company contacts you about a speaking opportunity, make sure that the contact info adds up. Personal email accounts or invalid phone numbers could be a warning sign of a scam. Compare the information on the “Contact Us” page on the company website to avoid an issue where someone is pretending to be a representative of another company.
- Request for Different Payment System: If someone wants to pay you with a cashier’s check, or a foreign method of payment, then you need to proceed with caution. In some situations, scammers will send a check that is bigger than your fee, requesting that you wire the difference back to them. Never accept this agreement! There’s a high likelihood that the check is fake, which means that you won’t be able to recover the wire transfer that was sent from your account. Stick with common payment methods such as PayPal, Venmo, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and Stripe. Since you are the speaker, you get to choose the payment method that works best for you.
- The Deal is Too Good to Be True: Whether the fees are much higher than normal or something sounds like it is too good to be true, it is probably a red flag that something is wrong. Use common sense and trust your instinct. Then, do your research before putting yourself at risk.
One of the benefits that eSpeakers offers to your speaking business is our focus on security. We have put together a dynamic system designed to catch potential red flags like these. If you have been contacted by someone through the eSpeakers Marketplace or one of the directories we power, then we have the ability to monitor these requests.
For example, we detect messages that have been sent out to a large number of speakers, which is a warning sign of spam. Even though we are working hard to detect fraud, the scammers are always looking for ways to work the system. So, we will be releasing a new version of our Marketplace directory technology in May 2017, to better address security and decrease the risk of scams.
Have you received a message that seems suspicious? Make sure to notify us at email@example.com. Submitting the suspicious lead allows us to start an investigation so that we can prevent the scammer from contacting other speakers. Your information will help us to stay on top of the trends in the scamming industry so that we can maintain security for our system.
Proactive Steps to Keep Yourself Protected
When it comes to business communication, proactive activities are better than waiting until a problem has occurred. Be safe in the way you approach your business communication and marketing efforts! But, you don’t need to be paranoid in every conversation. For example, there are situations when you might need to pay a finder’s fee commission for a lead on a speaking opportunity that comes to you in the eSpeakers Marketplace or one of the directories we power with our technology.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you have been contacted through a platform outside of eSpeakers. These tips will help you determine if it is a legitimate request:
- Research the Company: An online search can help you find information about the business or individual contacting you. Type in the name of the company, as well as terms such as scheme, fraud, complaint, and scam. As you looking, keep an eye out for forum discussions, reviews, and notices posted on websites such as the Better Business Bureau and Snopes.
- Direct Contact: If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a message, then request a phone number so that you can have a conversation. Scammers are often hesitant to get on the phone. So, if they are unwilling to provide a phone number, then it could be a sign that you are working with someone who is trying to scam you. When the phone number is provided, do an online search to make sure that the number matches with the business information published on the internet.
- Website Security: Before you make a payment online, ensure that the website utilizes modern security features. For example, on a secure website you should be able to see a closed padlock in the status bar of your web browser. Click on that padlock image to see if the “Issued to” name is congruent with the website name. Also, the URL should begin with an https:// instead of http://.
- Manually Type the URL: Has a web address been provided? In an email, it might look like a basic URL. But, there are methods that can be used to disguise the link and take you to a questionable website instead. So, it is best to manually type the URL into your web browser instead of clicking on a link in your email. Keep in mind that sometimes scammers will use a legitimate web address, but they aren’t really the promoter for the event.
- Pay Attention to Current Scams: Look at The Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center to see current online violations. These press releases will share details about the current scams that are happening. You can also check Snopes for the latest scams, rumors, urban legends and misinformation going around the web.
Does the message meet all of the above requirements? Then definitely continue the conversation about the speaking opportunity! But, if something seems unusual, then you should consider the benefits of submitting the information to eSpeakers so we can list it on our meetings industry scams page to help other speakers avoid the same situation. If you feel like it’s warranted, you can filing an official complaint with the FBI.
Questions about Security for Your Speaking Business?
Do you have additional questions about protecting yourself and your business? Our team at eSpeakers is always working hard to offer the best services in the industry. We suggest speakers, meeting planners, and event organizers use eSpeakers Marketplace, or one of the many directories powered by the Marketplace technology to avoid some of the common problems that can happen. Also, you are always invited to contact us with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help!