• Peter Warmka

Fallen Victims: Trade Show Targeting



Denise obtained her undergraduate marketing degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. During her degree program she was able to participate in the university’s internship program, landing a six-month internship with a company headquartered in Minneapolis, MN. This firm specialized in the development of facial recognition and bio metric verification systems. Denise really enjoyed her experience with the company. In addition to learning about revolutionary technology and how it could be implemented for both security and marketing purchases, she really enjoyed the culture of the firm.


Upon graduation, this firm offered Denise a position as assistant head of marketing and sales. Due to her charismatic personality, the department decided to put her in charge of their trade shows. Denise traveled approximately 60 percent of her time attending trade shows across the United States as well as abroad. As she was single and had no family commitments, she saw it as a great opportunity to grow in her career as well as pursue her passion for travel.


During a trade show in Singapore, Denise was approached by Viktor, a young, attractive man who engaged her in conversation about her firm’s products. While his English was very good, she could detect a bit of an accent. Viktor stated that he was from Latvia, an Eastern European nation which borders Russia. He believed that there would be a big market for such products in Eastern Europe and wanted to explore opportunities for becoming a distributor of such products there.


In addition to being charmed by Viktor’s suave personality and flirtatious nature, Denise assessed this as a potentially great opportunity to expand her firm’s foreign market in a region where they currently did not have a distributor. As there were numerous visitors at Denise’s booth, Viktor suggested that they get together for dinner at the end of the day to further discussions. Denise readily agreed.


During their dinner, Viktor continued to control much of the conversation utilizing a variety of elicitation techniques. While not authorized to discuss any details regarding the development of the next generation of systems, Denise unconsciously let slip out considerable sensitive information. At the end of dinner, Viktor stated that he would be back in touch when he planned to visit the U.S. in the coming months. Denise never heard from him again.


Viktor was from Russia and utilized the trade show to collect information for his employer regarding vendors of cutting-edge technologies, their representatives and any non-public information he might be able to elicit.


Trade show targeting is a common practice utilized by those who try to collect non-public information on their targets of interest. Unfortunately, many companies do not properly brief representatives in the tactics utilized by those trying to acquire such proprietary information. Just like Denise, most representatives who are successfully targeted for such elicitation never realize what happened.

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