Event expert Nicole Matthews of The Henley Co. explains how she detected a check scammer before she could be defrauded of funds
Hello to my fellow event industry colleagues and entrepreneurs:
I’m reaching out to heighten your awareness on a check-cashing scheme that is impacting the event industry, and had I not just read an article about this happening to a planner in Canada, I might have fallen for the trap.
A month ago I was contacted by "Justin Gibbons" at Hudson Control Solutions in Sacramento. He was calling because Hudson wanted to produce a client appreciation event in San Diego in December. He asked for a planner that could handle all aspects of the event and manage the budget. One aspect of the event was a charitable contribution to an animal refuge in Africa. The employees of Hudson had declared this their charity of choice for 2016. They wanted to hire a speaker for the event and they would use a speakers bureau to confirm.
They asked Henley Co. to work with the speakers bureau and to pay all fees. Hudson would send me a check for the total funds but they wanted the planner to manage the budget and make all payments. This is not unusual since we regularly manage the budget and payments for clients. Justin said I would be contacted by Lisa Evans at TJX Companies (the parent company for TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods) about their sponsorship of the event. Lisa did call me to verify the details of the event and to confirm they would be sending a check.
It was Lisa’s behavior on the phone that really started me questioning the validity. She refused to give me her email address and couldn’t really answer the question as to why TJX would be sponsoring an event for an HVAC company in California.
I Googled the phone number she called me from and noticed that it was listed as a scam number. I then Googled the address of Hudson Control Solutions and contacted the business that should technically be next to Hudson, and was told that was not a company within the business park. I also called TJX to verify that "Lisa Evans" was an employee and told she was not. Hudson’s phone number never gets you to a real person.
When I confronted Justin about my concerns, he said he refused to work with an event planner that doesn’t trust the client. I asked to speak to the owner of Hudson but he said he wouldn’t share that information with me. I was told to rip up the check when it arrived.
And I encourage you to read the article about the Canadian event planner. Had I not listened to my intuition combined with knowledge from the article, this could have ended a lot worse! The scammers are hoping I would just deposit the check and send payment for to the “speakers bureau” because time is of the essence. They cash my check even though their check was a scam! Think of how financially devastating this could be for a business!
Please feel free to share this with any of your other event colleagues--I want to make sure as an industry we are hyper vigilant! I’m in the process of filing a report with the FBI and my bank.
Nicole Matthews, CSEP, is owner of The Henley Co., based in San Diego. She is an event, travel and lifestyle expert.