Venues which are available for hire may be the target of fraud which
operates in a similar way to more well known scams.
The basic characteristic of the fraud is the issue in advance of a
cheque drawn on a bank overseas. The cheque may turn out to be a fake and it
may take some time, perhaps several weeks, before this is discovered. Even
though the money may be in your organisation's bank account, it can be
reclaimed by your bank when the fraudulent cheque is discovered long after you
paid it in.
How it might work
There are at least these possible ways in which the fraudster may
- The event may be cancelled and a refund requested
- The cheque may be for more than the amount owing and you may be
asked to transfer or refund the difference
- You could be asked to pay fees in advance, for funds transfer or
some other reason, to be taken from the proceeds of the cheque.
In all these cases the idea is that you part with some money prior to
discovering that the cheque paid to you is false.
These are some signs to watch out for. None of them prove anything on
- The customer uses a free web based e-mail address
- The customer writes in poor English and may not make him/herself
- The customer does not ask to visit the venue before choosing it for
the event being planned.
- The customer wishes to send a cheque for the full payment as soon
- The customer may be reluctant to give you a physical address.
- The customer requirements may be unusual . For example a wedding
reception mid-week in February would be unusual.
- The customer may ask unusual and seemingly irrelevant questions but
he/she may not ask the sort of questions that your clients typically do ask,
and overall there will be very few questions about your venue and its
facilities and your services. (Hardly surprising if there is no real event
- The customer may be unusually willing to change the requirements to
match what the venue has to offer. For example the times might be changed to
fit with your opening hours.
The more of these signs you notice, the more cautious you should be.
Of course none of these things is significant on its own. Some of the above
points are more significant than others. Millions of honest people use
web-based free e-mail accounts! There are millions of honest people whose
English is not very good! However, there are fewer genuine clients who want to
pay 100% in advance for a venue they have not even been to look at.
It is not unknown for an genuine overseas client to book a UK venue
without seeing it, simply because it is impractical for the client to make the
journey. There may be good reasons for this, or maybe they have been
recommended to your venue by someone who knows it personally. However such a
client will usually be very interested in the details of the venue and what it
has to offer!
Protect your organisation
Your own caution is your best protection! There are some things you
can do to make it less likely that you will be defrauded.
- Always insist on a postal address and send a written contract by
post for the client to sign and return, if there is time. You may hear no
- Never accept a payment that is for a significantly larger sum of
money than is owing to you. Send the cheque back and ask for another.
- Ask for a deposit or full payment by credit card or some other
means of money transfer that is guaranteed. Follow your card processing
company's guidance on "customer not present" card transactions. Your "customer"
may well vanish when asked for payment other than by cheque! Credit card
transactions are not guaranteed - consult your card company especially if there
is little time before the proposed date of the event.
- Never pay a refund until you are 100% sure than you have received
the original payment. If possible make the terms state that the customer agrees
that there are no refunds, or that a refund won't be paid for three months.
- Do not pay any expenses or fees in advance