A bridal show that was supposed to have taken place this past weekend, March 5–7, at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, turned out to be a scam and is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

Reportedly thousands of brides-to-be and hundreds of exhibitors were bilked out of their money, prompting a cautionary statement from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events and the International Association of Assembly Managers.

The Boston 411 Home and Bridal Show had registered as many as 200 exhibitors through its Web site, charging between $350 and $4,000 for booth space, according to the article. Also, about 5,000 people registered online, paying from $10 to $15 each to attend the event. The show organizer promoted the event locally, created a Twitter page, and even promised that some of the proceeds would go to earthquake relief in Haiti. The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which manages the Hynes and the Boston Convention and Exposition Center, could not confirm the estimated number of attendees or exhibitors.

“In late February, the MCCA discovered that a home and bridal event was advertising a March event at the Hynes, which was not on our calendar,” says James E. Rooney, executive director, MCCA. “A woman associated with that event, the Boston 411 Home and Bridal Show, had been talking to MCCA staff about holding an event at the Hynes for some time. But after several attempts to get a signed contract, the woman associated with the event broke off all contact with MCCA staff,” Rooney adds.

”A few weeks later, MCCA staff discovered internet postings and Twitter feeds advertising the event at the Hynes,” Rooney states. “The MCCA notified Boston police as well as the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, and an investigation began immediately. We feel horrible for those who were taken by this scam.”

The officials held a news conference to expose the scam and prevent thousands of people from descending on the convention center this past weekend. Police called local hotels to tell them to alert out-of-town customers who booked rooms that the show would not take place.

IAEE and IAAM officials said the incident should “serve as a dramatic reminder that potential attendees and exhibitors must take additional precautions to establish the legitimacy of events, especially when dealing with unfamiliar internet-only operations.”

The two associations recommend taking the following precautions:

  • Know whom you are dealing with. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of the event, ask the organizer for references from previous exhibitors before paying for space or tickets;
  • Contact the local convention and visitors bureau and the facility at which the event is reported to be scheduled and confirm that the event organizer has actually consummated a legal contract for exhibit space;
  • Convention and exhibition halls and CVBs are urged to list on their public schedules only events for which a contract has been properly executed. Doing otherwise enables fraud rather than preventing it;
  • Check with industry organizations such as IAEE and IAAM to determine if the organizer of the event is recognized as legitimate.