If you’re a full-time artisan or make handmade items as a hobby, be careful when signing up to sell your wares at craft fairs. The Better Business Bureau has received reports of scammers posing as craft fair organizers. Vendors think they’re paying a fee to participate, only to find that the “organizer” took their money and ran.
Here’s what you need to know about this new scheme that is targeting craft fair vendors and how to avoid losing money to it.
How craft fair scams work
This scam begins with ads on the Internet, social media sites and even flyers posted in public spaces inviting vendors to participate in craft fairs. When vendors contact the organizers, they are given limited details about the event and are asked to fill out an application and pay a vendor fee, according to BBB.
The telltale sign of this scam is that the “organizers” ask vendors to pay their fee using a peer-to-peer payment service such as PayPal. With PayPal in particular, vendors are asked to use the friends and family function when making payments.
After payments are sent, one of two scenarios typically occurs:
- The craft fair “organizer” promises to send more details about the event then doesn’t follow-up or respond to requests for more information.
- The “organizer” claims that the application fee payment didn’t go through and asks for a second payment.
In both scenarios, vendors hand over their money and personal information, and there is no craft fair. If they’ve paid through a peer-to-peer payment app, they can’t get their money back. That’s because payments made through these services can’t be canceled after they’ve been completed. Once the money is sent, it’s available to the recipient. Typically, the only way to get a refund is to ask the recipient to send you one—which won’t happen if it’s a scam.
How to avoid craft fair scams
Exercise caution when applying to be a vendor at craft fairs to avoid becoming a victim of a scam. The BBB recommends taking these steps.
Thoroughly research craft fairs and their organizers before applying to be a vendor. Look for a website that provides extensive details about the craft fair and the application process. Read reviews of the event. Contact previous vendors to ask about their experience with the craft fair. If the event is happening for the first time, ask the organizers for specific information about the event. If they can’t provide you with many details, it’s a red flag.
Be careful about the form of payment you use. Often, legitimate craft fair organizers have an application process to vet vendors and won’t ask for payment until vendors have been selected to participate. Even then, they typically won’t ask for payment through a peer-to-peer payment app. If a payment app such as PayPal, Venmo or Zelle is the only option available, be aware that you likely won’t be able to get your money back if something goes wrong. So it’s best to avoid using this form of payment.
Resist the hard sell. If an organizer tells you that you have to act quickly to secure a spot, won’t provide you with many details about an event or only gives you the option to pay a vendor fee through a payment app, walk away. This most likely is a scam.
If you’re not sure whether an offer you have received is a scam, you can activate a free trial with the Carefull financial safety service to use the Scam Check tool. Scam Check allows Carefull users to share details about a suspicious offer, call, text or email and find out from Carefull’s team of financial safety experts whether it’s a scam.