Yesterday I posted my little journey of the past days into a very scary craft show application zone (if you haven't read it, you probably need to so today's post will make sense). I do want to make it clear that I'm not accusing the organizer of scamming anyone -- I never sent my check. If I had, he may very well have returned it. And, as I mentioned in one of my forum posts, he's organized a show before at that location -- he may have been planning on it when he set up his show season and website and when it didn't pan out, he just didn't change his web info. I have neglected my Etsy shop and my blog from time to time -- laziness is not the same as fraud. It's not the best management or the most professional, but that doesn't make it a scam. I posted my story because I could see how easily it could have become a scam and I hope that sharing my experience will help others be more watchful.
One of my forum friends reminded me that there was a big scam in Boston using a Bridal Show as a front -- I knew about it. Apparently, a show organizer took large sums of money from vendors for booth fees at a bridal show (such shows are usually far more expensive than craft shows) and even went so far as to advertise on a local radio station. The whole thing looked very legitimate -- but wasn't and the vendors were left out in the cold. While it's awful that the vendors were scammed like that, my concern is actually about the forms they filled out.
I don't know about you, but a lot of the craft show forms I fill out ask for my tax ID or Social Security number -- in many states, show organizers are required to provide this information to state tax authorities (which I totally understand). My issue with it is, that I may not get accepted into a particular show but I've provided my most private identity information to someone I don't know and who is unlikely to be bonded in any way. I've begun enclosing a note with my applications stating that due to concerns over identity theft, I will not provide my private numbers until after I've been accepted to a show. I'm sure that adds to the work load of the show organizer -- having to link my info to my application later on. But identity theft is too big a problem for crafters to be handing their info to just anyone. Many applications require a self addressed stamped envelope for the return of photos submitted -- I've gotten photos back, but have never gotten my application back. What did the organizer do with it? Where did my personal information go? Those vendors in Boston not only lost hundreds and thousands of dollars in booth fees, which is tragic enough, but they also provided personal information to these same scammers.
I would like to challenge craft show organizers to find a different way of collecting and securing personal information from vendors -- maybe indicate to a vendor on the application that such information will be required after acceptance. Add a "security page" to the application which can be filled out and returned after the vendor has been accepted ... or send a small form with their acceptance letter. There needs to be some reasonable way for the vendor to provide that information without putting themselves in jeopardy of identity theft.
And for those of us who take credit cards from our customers, we need to have a secure method of handling and storing their information. I use a knuckle buster at craft shows to take credit cards so I have a "paper trail" to prove the transaction -- but I also have to maintain those forms in a way that's secure. I don't really want to reveal what I do here because I don't want to announce that on a blog and invite trouble -- but just know that I have a security plan for keeping my customer's credit card numbers safe.
We need to be keeping it safe -- for ourselves and our customers.