This cautionary tale isn't meant to freak you out, but to encourage you to be on top of your game.
Looking back, I don't think I necessarily did anything wrong or stupid to cause the loss. They were simply good scam artists and played on entrepreneurial naivety and hopefulness.
It all started at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market in April 2015. I had dozens of people stop by, and even passerbys were offered a business card.
I think it was the next week or so when I received an email from DFW Crafton (YES, I name dropped so you can avoid the same potential fate!) saying they stopped by my booth, and they loved my products, blah, blah, blah.
It went on to say that they host their own craft shows, and would love for me to participate. They provided their website, which looked legitimate, and explained how it all worked. I'd already been a vendor at dozens of craft shows at this point, so I knew what I was doing.
I paid for an event, and a couple months later, I received an email saying they had transferred the trade show duties to a third party and had been scammed. They would need some time to get everyone their refund.
So I waited patiently, as I understood they likely had lots of work to do.
I sent a follow up email 60 days later.
I sent another email 60 days after that.
Again, no response.
I believe those two ladies were the scammers. It was just pocket change, but it was the principle of the matter. Exactly how many vendors had their money taken? 50? 100? More? Who knows?
I went to their website, and of course it was no longer there. Looked up their Facebook page, and you guessed it. Gone.
Tried looking them up on the Google box. No luck. These people were nowhere to be found.
I contacted PayPal to request a refund, but by the time I'd gotten around to it, it was beyond Paypal's 180 day deadline.
So what could I have done differently?
The only thing I could have reasonably done was not wait so late to contact PayPal. The initial payment I made was in March 2015, and the "scam notice" from DFW Crafton was sent to me in July 2015. If I had contacted PayPal by September, I would have gotten my money back. But I [foolishly] didn't contact PayPal until February 2016.
The "6-8 week" resolution schedule, I speculate, was a way to get beyond the PayPal deadline of 180 days- The deadline would have been in September 2015.
I should have followed up with DFW Crafton 14 days after sending the first email, instead of forgetting about it for two months.
There's no way I could have prevented the loss, but I could have done better to recover my money.
You never want to jump the gun on anybody, but I gave them ample time to both respond and reimburse me. The sad part is, I wasn't on top of it. It would have been appropriate to contact PayPal shortly after my first email.
It hasn't ruined my trust in craft shows, but it was definitely a lesson learned.
What lessons have you learned in business?