My school office received a call this morning by someone who needed to get a hold of me urgently and had not been able to get a hold of me despite multiple attempts. I definitely had no missed calls/emails about this. (Warning #1)
When I returned their call, they had no idea who I was, what event I was calling about, etc. (Warning #2).
In conversation, it was clear to me that this ”100% legitimate totally honest travel agency” was in fact trying determine if I had a reservation in Houston and then attempt to sell me and my team if we did not yet have rooms (Warning #3!). Definitely a scam.
As a reminder to all of you if hunting for hotel rooms, do NOT trust any agent or service you do not know 100% is legit. The situation with Houston being at max capacity is a major stressor for teams trying to find spaces. Don’t let the stress cause you to trust folks like this.
EDIT: I was called by a company claiming to be “Exhibitor” something or other. A 1-800 number ending in 2105.
My car’s warranty is about to expire, do you think they could help?
On a related note, my students have been getting a ton of emails in our team inbox for random attempts to sell things like merchandise, ice cream delivered to hotel, and website search engine optimization in the name of going to Houston champs. They ask me about it before replying, which is good. Lots of scamming going on
If you have any of the contact info for some of these more targeted schemes (especially interested in the ice cream one @seg9585), I can take a look and see if they are connected to the scamming ring I uncovered in my writeup.
@seg9585 sent me a screenshot of the Mooseum ice cream email. Seems legit, just a local ice cream food truck that got ahold of some team emails. They have champs on their website with specific hours as well, so they might be one of the food trucks parking outside GRB. The form they provide has a delivery window right after they are scheduled to leave GRB each night.
Curious how all of these emails are getting tied to champs though. I wonder if the suspicions of an unofficial “FRC team contact info” email list leaking are correct.
The e-mail went to the address published on our team website, and we didn’t get the e-mail until TBA indicated we were registered for champs. I assume they have someone doing the research on teams to find ways to reach out. So I’m not overly concerned about leaks or anything (I would have been concerned if me or my students private email addresses received them). Having said that, they clearly didn’t do enough research or they would have found out half our team is lactose intolerant so we were unlikely to be customers anyway
To counter this, I got a much more invasive one before we were listed on the site.
The phone call I got to my personal cell from a hotel scammer this week was Monday, prior to the payment deadline / before we were populated on the FIRST event list. My cell number is NOT something that we’ve ever published as part of our team information, nor is it something I make a habit of giving out - I have a school desk phone # with forwarding on, if I need to give out a team-admin-phone-number to someone.
Same vibes - “I’m from FIRST’s hotel company”, “here for your early bird rates”, etc etc.
When pressed for more information, the scam caller listed off 1923, The MidKnight Inventors, my full name, as well as “W Windsor” as our school which is a weird abbreviation of our school district that I’ve only ever found here.
I said “I’m sorry, and you got this information directly from FIRST? Can you let me know your point of contact at HQ?” and he hung up on me.
I called HQ immediately, FRC team support said ‘thanks for telling us’, and seemingly nothing has happened since. Screenshot (with my info blocked out, I’m not dealing with this nonsense again) below. Not sorry about leaking the scam caller number, though mildly annoyed my email client made the image this damn big
Honestly not bad marketing. Would just be better if they added something like “we’re a local company, saw that a lot of teams are traveling for this event, and found your contact information on your website” just to mitigate the fear of being scammed.