Working with new event partners and suppliers needs careful process management.

None of us are exempt from the ever-increasing sophistication of scammers, and this story serves as a warning when working with new and unknown suppliers – especially on one-off jobs in the Middle East and Africa regions.

An established and experienced partner, a Europe-based production company was almost conned out of many thousands of event budget euros. The disaster was avoided, but the lesson is that sometimes you just get caught up in a scam despite thinking you are switched on and despite being vigilant.

After a face to face meeting in one of the MEA territories, communications between a new AV partner and the Production Company were going well.  The subject was the AV set up for a corporate business event in the MEA-located country, and there were no obvious problems. Official quotations had been exchanged, received and accepted. Standard terms and conditions were applied and the payment schedule agreed. All that remained was for the agreed deposit to be sent.

On receipt of what truly looked like an email from the local on-the-ground AV company contact, the deposit payment was sent via the standard bank payment transfer system to the AV partner’s company bank account. Except it never reached their account because the AV partner’s email had been hacked.  The hackers had sent what seemed like an innocent email back from the AV company asking for the money to be sent to a different bank account. The scam was caught just in time, but not before innocently initiating the transfer of the money.  The bank stopped the finalisation of the payment and returned the money to the Production company account finally, but it was a close call, and the money was very nearly lost forever.

There are obvious morals to this story. You can’t always tell if emails are a scam, or have been hacked so:

  1. Start at the right place – get your process written down in a logical flow – check in advance the credentials and references of your new domestic ground partner, even though you may have met them face to face, or been to their offices.
  2. Establish that their bank account is genuine: always to ask to see a foreign company’s bank details which must be produced on their bank’s headed paper – they must get an official bank communication with these details, and if possible, stamped with the bank’s official signature or mark. Look up the IBAN code on the internet: check that the code matches the bank name and their address
  3. Issue a Purchase Order and ask for an official invoice. Reject the invoice if the detail is thin – ask for the bank details, tax number and all other relevant company identifiers to be contained on it.
  4. Stick to the terms in your contract: double check on any requested deviations from your agreement which come via email and never send money other than to the checked and validated bank – always follow up verbally with your trusted contact before you send any money
  5. Send a test of a small amount of money first and have a confirmation of receipt of it from the supplier verbally and in writing before sending the rest of the money!

Without these checks, and in the case where you or an event delivery partner are victim of a swindle, and you cannot retrieve the money, then the responsibility for making good may fall in a very uncomfortable place…and that uncomfortable place could be you.

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