Craft fairs are an excellent place for artisans and small business owners to sell their wares, but vendors should be cautious when dealing with unfamiliar "organizers." BBB.org/ScamTracker has received reports of scammers posing as craft fair planners who trick vendors out of money and personal information.
How the scam works
You see a local craft fair ad on social media, a physical flyer, or an internet search. When you contact the event organizer, they give you basic details about the fair and ask if you are interested in participating. If you are, they may ask you to fill out an application and pay the vendor fee. BBB Scam Tracker has received multiple reports of scammers asking vendors to pay through PayPal (a BBB Accredited Business) using the friends and family function.
One consumer reported to BBB, "I sent the money and a screenshot of the payment to the organizer. I asked if I was all set, and she said my spot was reserved and she would send me more details when the day was closer. Then I asked when she usually sends out the information. The message was marked as read, but she never responded. Two days later, I asked to cancel the space and collect my full refund, as the application stated a full refund was available. She never replied, and now I have radio silence." In other reports, scammers claimed the payment did not go through and asked the vendor to make a second payment.
If you pay through a digital wallet app, your money will be gone for good. In addition, if you fill out an application with your name, address, and other details, that personal information will now be in the hands of scammers.
How to avoid craft fair scams
Do your homework. Before applying to be a vendor at a craft fair, do plenty of research. Look up the person or company organizing the event. You should be able to view their website, event reviews, and other details. If you cannot find anything, consider it a red flag. Finally, talk to other vendors in your area to find out if they have heard of the craft fair.
Use caution when making payments. If you determine a craft fair is legitimate, you will still want to be careful when paying for your spot. If an event organizer insists on payment through a digital wallet app, especially if they ask you to pay using the friends and family function or if they ask you to send the money to a strange email address, think twice. Remember that peer-to-peer payment systems are the same as paying cash. Once you have sent the funds, you cannot get them back.
Do not give in to intimidation tactics. If an organizer pressures you to participate or is pushy about receiving payment but reticent about giving details about the craft fair, you are probably dealing with a con artist.
Better Business Bureau serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices. Visit BBB.org/canton or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, read tips and more.