Katelyn – Aug 24, 2020

Victim Location 10018

Total money lost $50

Type of a scam Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prizes

I was a victim of an award scam, run by a company called MADcon (not to be confused with the legitimate madconNYC). I was initially contacted by them via email. They asked me to nominate myself for their "Top 100 Marketing and Advertising Leaders" award, to be presented at a conference in Las Vegas in December 2020; they also mentioned that I was on the "short list" for this award. The descriptions of both the award and the company were very vague, and there was no indication that they knew where I worked or what I actually do for a living. There was also nothing shared as to why I was on the shortlist, who nominated me, etc.

Out of curiosity, and after three separate people emailed me (all acting as if I were being contacted for the first time), I responded to the email and ended up speaking on the phone with a woman named Yashasvi Kapoor. In retrospect, I should’ve picked up on some major "red flags" from this call alone, and I should’ve asked more specific questions. Yashasvi vaguely described described the conference as "honoring people in marketing and advertising"—once again, there was no mention of why I was "shortlisted" for this award, they didn’t know the company I worked for, and they had no idea what any of my marketing/advertising accomplishments were. She said that there was a $50 fee for the nomination process and that, if I was selected as a winner, there was a $1500 fee for the actual conference. Honestly, at the time I thought the price was reasonable, compared to other industry events, so I proceeded, paid the $50 fee, and ended up "winning" the award.

Once I won, things quickly became more and more sketchy, and I soon wished I had never bothered even responding to the first email. For the fourth time, the main person emailing me also changed—now it was Sagar Sharma. He began emailing me every few days, anxious to receive the $1500 payment. The story always changed; sometimes the payment was needed ASAP, sometimes a partial payment was ok, sometimes the pay had to be made in full, sometimes they required more money, sometimes less, etc (but, every time, he’d email me as if we had never interacted before—i.e. wondering if I had received my award results—which I thought was odd). This summer, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sagar continued to pressure me for the full $1500 payment, insisting that the in-person conference in December would still happen because according to them, and I quote, "there are more than 350 plus conferences happening before December." This is a lie. All legitimate, in-person industry conferences have either been moved online or postponed to 2021.

So, I finally decided to do what I should’ve done in the first place—I did a deep dive investigation on this "award." The addresses listed on MADcon’s website don’t link to actual offices; they link to middle of nowhere street corners and warehouses (one image attached). There’s absolutely no one of note in the marketing/advertising industry who either works for them or has spoken at a previous event. No one at all.

Essentially, they’re asking for $1500 (+ the $50 nomination fee) in exchange for a plaque/award that doesn’t mean anything, from a company that no one has heard of (but deliberately is named similarly to other, noteworthy companies and events). I’m no longer in contact with them, and I won’t be attending their conference. I wish I hadn’t engaged with them to begin with, but I hope my story helps someone else.

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