Thursday, October 13, 2016

Beware: The Sagada Music Festival Is A Scam (Plus Pointers In Spotting Online Scams)

The internet has made it a lot easier for con men to practice their parasitic craft. Recent victims of these leeches include people who may have paid thousands of pesos for a non-existing musical event that's to be held in the tourist town of Sagada in Mt. Province. Several weeks ago, word got out, mostly through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, that the town will serve as host to a music festival dubbed the Sagada Music Festival on October 22 and 23.

Promotional materials for the event promised performances from nearly a dozen Filipino bands including Up Dharma Down and Silent Sanctuary. For people looking for a quick getaway, the offer is almost irresistible. Who would pass on the opportunity to participate in a multi-band music festival while immersed in the magic of Sagada?

Well. As of today, everything points to the inevitable conclusion that the event is a scam. Someone somewhere is trying to make a quick buck. It's good that the scam has been detected this early. Still, there's the possibility that there are people who already registered and forwarded their payments for tickets. The supposed event is just one week away and the organizers are nowhere to be found. They scampered. Like the thieving rats that they are. The event page has been taken down. According to The Ransom Collective which is one of the bands listed in the lineup of performing artists, the organizers have been operating under fictitious names and email accounts. The link to the registration form through Google Docs is also gone.

Some of the bands in the lineup also released statements either denying involvement or that they are still waiting confirmation that the event will push through. Maybe we should give the organizers the benefit of the doubt here but the fact that they've taken down the event page is proof enough that they are not at all operating in good faith.

As I mentioned earlier, the event is just a week away. At this point, everything should already be in place. The equipment should already be on their way to Sagada. All the bands involved should've been informed that the event will push through so that they can finalize their schedules. The local government should have been informed. Word has it that people in Sagada don't even know that they are hosting a music festival.

Anyway, to summarize things, here are the red flags why this is a scam:
1) The organizers took down the event page. There's only one reason why they would do this. That is to cover their scam.
2) The tickets are low considering what they are supposed to cover. An early bird ticket costs 2,500 while a regular ticket costs 5,000. At first glance, these prices seem expensive. However, a ticket covers round-trip transportation, three days and two nights hotel accommodation, breakfast for three days, and a festival poster. Are the organizers planning to lose money?
3) The organizers have been operating under fictitious names and email accounts. It's like talking to anonymous people.
4) The organizers claim that they are abroad. Apparently, they are making this as an excuse for not being in contact with the bands. Do these people know how to use Facebook? They can be in the middle of a volcano somewhere in Europe. That isn't an excuse to not stay in contact with the bands.
5) The municipality of Sagada isn't aware of the festival. What are the organizers planning to do? Just drive to Sagada a day before the event, set up equipment, and not expect the town council to question what the hell they are doing?
6) The organizers used a Google Doc for registration instructing registrants to pay via LBC and Cebuana Lhuillier. Fishy.

Note: Shoutout to everyone who flexed their muscles to expose this scam - Gareth Likigan, Carlos Tanada, Up Dharma Down, Silent Sanctuary, Sud, The Random Collective, and netizens.