An Investigation into Fake List Vendors

March 5, 2019

Trade show organizers have a new problem. Rogue list brokers are targeting their exhibitors, claiming to have access to the official attendee list. We began seeing this more widely in 2017 and by the end of 2018, exhibitors at every show we work were receiving daily emails from these solicitors. Show organizers are seemingly helpless to stop this and as a result, many of our clients have approached us asking if there is anything we can do to help them stop this.    

In response to these requests, Event Technologies undertook an effort to look into these list brokers to see if we could gain any insight into how they operate, what they are selling and whether or not they can be stopped. Here is what we found.

The Investigation

Our plan was to make contact with as many of these soliciting companies as possible to see what we could learn. We asked our prospects and existing clients to forward us any solicitation emails they received. The response was overwhelming. Over the course of six weeks, we received over 300 emails from organizers and exhibitors who had received these solicitations. Clearly, we had stumbled upon a widespread issue.    

The email solicitations received by the exhibitors have a common theme. The solicitors claim to have the attendee list from a specific show, list the demographic information they will share, indicate the number of contacts in the list (often this is incorrect), and offer to send pricing information. In their email signature, we generally found no useful contact information, and the domain name in their email address was not associated with a legitimate website. We were unable to find anything useful about these companies based on this initial email.  

The next step was to reply to each of these emails asking for more information and pricing.  Each time the response came from a different contact. This second contact replied saying that they were following up on a request from their marketing department and they would quote us a price to purchase the list. This email always had an address with a different URL than the first contact and there was almost always a functional website associated with this new URL. They typically offered to send us a sample list, which was never more than five contacts, and most of the time they looked promising because the contacts were relevant and the contact information appeared to be accurate.  


We studied these websites, looked up the physical addresses, called the phone numbers and tried to find out who owned each site. They all had the same basic, almost identical, information.  The text contained general information about digital marketing with many grammatical errors (always a red flag), and there was never information about the specific event that we inquired about. If they contained social media links, those links typically didn’t work. The physical address for the business was always a shared workspace, a mailbox rental store, a house or a huge building with no specific suite number somewhere in the U.S. The phone numbers included on these websites went straight into a generic voicemail. However, when we left a message, we would typically receive a phone call the next day, as long as we said we were looking to buy.  

All of the sales reps that returned our voicemails had Indian accents and were willing to answer our questions. When asked how they acquired the show list, some would say they were partnered with the event, and others would create an elaborate story that often involved verifying the attendees by starting with a massive database and then using social media, travel records and partners they had that worked directly with the event. Some would even admit that they didn’t have the actual list, but instead a larger list that most likely included all the shows attendees. As one solicitor put it, the list was “inclusive of all probable attendees” of the given event. This individual then went onto say that they were helping the events by “bringing them more publicity.” 

On some email communications, we would simply say that we were ready to buy the list, and they would send us an invoice asking us to sign it and send it back. They said that once we paid they would send our list in a week or so. The preferred payment method was through wire transfer or PayPal in some cases but never via credit card. We didn’t purchase any lists, but we assume that this is because credit card companies have robust fraud prevention departments and it’s easy for them to reverse the charges when fraud is claimed. Most of the companies we dealt with have a stated “No Refund Policy” so getting a refund, in the event of a dispute, is unlikely.  

While researching this, we received an email from a colleague who had purchased a fraudulent list. She paid $700 for what was supposed to be the attendee list for a medical show where she was exhibiting. After realizing that she had been duped, she thought about taking legal action but because the cost of the list was $700, the expense of pursuing legal action did not seem worth it. She sent us the list and we analyzed the data. Surprisingly, the data looked legitimate but it was definitely not the show list. It was a list of 15,000 doctors and the 100 records that we examined mostly contained valid contact information.   


We spoke to a number of exhibitors that had purchased one of these lists and we were able to confirm that the lists were NOT the real attendee lists. And as we noted earlier, a number of the list vendors also confirmed that they do not have the real attendee list. We believe that most of these companies sell legitimate lists; they are just not the list of the event’s attendees. They use cheap manpower to scour the internet and collect phone and email information for tens of thousands of people and then sell that information to U.S.-based companies. In the last couple of years, they figured out that exhibiting companies were often desperate to get a hold of attendee lists, so they started to focus their marketing efforts on exhibitors.  

What Can You Do?

As it turns out, there are some steps you can take to help mitigate the situation but using the law does not seem to be one of them. We spoke with a number of show organizers who said they had threatened legal action and sent cease and desist letters. We have no evidence that would lead us to believe that it’s having any effect. In addition, many of the shows we inquired about had more than one company attempting to sell the list. We believe that many of the sites that we encountered are owned by the same individuals, and there is evidence online that they have shut down old websites and opened new ones with slightly different names. So stopping one of these websites will not stop a different one from soliciting your exhibitors.   

From our investigation, the biggest problem for show organizers is the massive number of emails that are being sent to their exhibitors and the confusion it is causing. We recommend you implement one or more of these suggestions:

  1. Educating your exhibitors is important. Make sure they completely understand that you do not sell your attendee list. Warn your exhibitors ahead of time that they will most likely receive unsolicited emails from people claiming to have the show list. Put this information on the exhibitor registration page and make sure your staff reminds your exhibitors when appropriate. It’s also a good idea to post this information on your website.
  2. Put your exhibitors' contact names on password-protected web pages. If these companies are unable to find an exhibitor contact name, then they can only send their emails to general mailboxes such as and This will reduce the number of emails that your exhibitors receive directly.
  3. Reply to the emails that your exhibitors receive and find out which companies are marketing your list. Ideally, do this from an email address that is not your personal address. It couldn’t hurt to call them and threaten them with legal action. We have compiled a list of known companies, so please feel free to contact us and we will send it to you.  

Our Plan

The strategy that we are going to use to help our customers will include diplomatically threatening the list vendors with something that we think they will care about. We have a good strategy for this and would be happy to share it with you if you are interested. In 2019, we will be executing this idea for the shows that we work with and we should have some feedback in March. 


The good news is you can be fairly certain that these companies do not have your current attendee list, and there are some pro-active steps that can help minimize the disruption caused to your exhibitors. If you have any ideas on how the trade show community can fight back, let us know and we will be happy to lead the charge.   


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.