Food Trends

Fake food festival scam targets crab-loving foodies

Online scammers are setting up fake food festival websites. But the money lost is real.

Online scammers are setting up fake food festival websites. But the money lost is real.

If you just love seafood—especially crab—beware of a new twist on an old fashioned Internet credit card scam.

In Los Angeles it was called the Super Crab Festival. In Philadelphia, it was the Hot Garlic Crab Feed. And in Houston, it’s being promoted as Crab America.

But don’t grab your claw crackers just yet. It turns out none of these festivals are real—and the scammers have been getting away with it for almost four months.

In December, the Modesto Bee first reported citing at least 21 food festivals advertised on reputable company websites like Groupon, Facebook or through local papers and on radio stations. The ads—and corresponding festival websites-- appeared genuine with ticket prices ranging from $49 tickets for all-you-can-eat crab, salad, pasta, bread, and desserts at a recent “Hot Garlic Crab Feed Houston” or $99 for VIP tickets that offered an additional helping of steak.

Hungry crab lovers purchased tickets through one of several websites, using a credit or debit card and then awaited the date of their chosen all-you-can-eat crab fest.

But when they showed up at the designated “location” of the food festival, there was nothing there—save for an empty field, a crowd of dismayed food-festival ticket holders or a sign posted saying the “event” had been cancelled.

Yelper Roxy C. who allegedly spent $312 on tickets to a Los Angeles area "festival" posted, “Called two days prior to ask if the crab there serving passed inspection. They assured me the event is still on. Showed up to an empty hall w no representative , just angry people like myself wondering why they never contacted us!”

Others vented their frustration on social media:

Many customers on Yelp claim they purchased tickets through Groupon.

FoxNews.com reached out to the deal site and received the following statement from head of communications Bill Roberts: “We always support our customers should they have trouble with an event. Unfortunately, as in any industry, there are a few bad actors who make it difficult for everyone else. We’re in the process of revising our internal policies to identify and stop anyone from taking advantage of our customers.”

When asked to identify specific measures the company is taking to refund scam victims, Roberts said the crab festival constitutes a small fraction of the events offered and the company wasn’t “going to let a few rogues ruin things for folks who look to us for amazing things to do.”

Multiple attempts to reach Facebook, where a page featuring a currently running scam is still live, were not returned.

Despite numerous complaints, there are several active crab festivals that appear to be fake including dungenesscrabassociation.com and crabamerica.com

Consumer Reports recommends taking the following precautions:

-- Look closely at the website. If it looks like a an intro to CS practice page, it’s probably too good to be true. Some of the words on the dungenesscrabassociation.com page, for example, are truncated and there are enough grammatical mistakes scattered throughout the linked pages that your scam antenna should tingle.

-- If the link redirects, be suspicious. Especially if you’re redirected to an unrelated site to “buy” tickets.

-- Double check the contact information available. Is the phone line ringing with no answer? Do emails go unreturned or bounce back quickly? If no one’s getting back to you, it could that no one is there.