In the past 6 years since I have started speaking professionally I have seen a large number of scams come through my inbox. Many are so transparent that it’s almost painful. It’s rare that a scam can fool me but this one almost got me. Almost.
Here is the 1st e-mail I received:
My Name is Pastor Tom Edwards from the First Baptist Church we are writing to Invite you to be our guest speaker at the up Coming First Baptist Church 2014 Anniversary which is taking place here In UK England, We are writing to invite and confirm your booking to be our
Guest speaker at up Coming First Baptist Church 2014 Anniversary. Other Ministers Of God are coming from Different part of the World.
The Venue as follows:
39 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1BX,
Expected audience: 300 people Duration of speech per speaker: 1 Hour
Host: PASTOR TOM EDWARDS
Topic: Innovation Management Ethics Attitude
Date: 10th Augut 2014
Theme: TIME OF FULFILLMENT
REFERENCE: EVENT BROCHURE
SIGNING OF AUTOGRAPH: ALLOWED
SELLING OF CD’S AND BOOKS: ALLOWED.
TELEPHONE: + 44 704 205 6151
The purpose of these conference is to re-brand the heart,mind,body and soul of Christians who have gone astray and are diverting their whole attention into mundane affairs and ensuring that it is possible for Christians, whether new or of long standing, to deepen their spiritual lives and gain eternal life. Also bringing a heart of deep compassion and a strong commitment to the fullness of life that is found only in the redemptive love of Christ, we are Sorry about our late invitation it is due to the fact that our Speaker had back out because of her sudden illness.
We came across your profile on http://joshgunderson.com The lord has direct us to email you for this assignment. and we say it’s up to standard and we will be very glad to have such an outstanding personality in our mist for these overwhelming gathering. With your Multi talented speech more lives will come close to GOD. Arrangement will be discussed as soon as you honor our invitation. If you have any more publicity material,please do not hesitate to contact us. We are taking care of your traveling and Hotel Accommodation expenses including our Speaker fees you are bless as you honor this invitation it is a pleasure writing you.
Hope to hear from you Asap.
In His Services,
Pastor Tom Edwards
First Baptist Church
I replied back despite a few red flags going up. Strange wording on the e-mail as well as grammatical and spelling mistakes were a few. I ignored them on the grounds for the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom.
In my response I quoted travel costs and speaking fee which were agreed to without question. Because of the last minute notification for international travel, I informed “Pastor Tom” that all payments would need to be made within two weeks in order to secure tickets and make travel arrangements.
I was told that this would be no problem and along with his reply sent me their contract. Red flags everywhere started to appear when I read their childish 1-page contract.
I replied back with my own contract/rider and said that I would send a signed copy of their along once I received mine back.
Then the next day:
Good day Josh, I understand that you are First Baptist Church’s guest for their upcoming conference, Edward Smith informed me earlier, I have undergone this process for their guests in the past as well prior to this time as well so below are the details.
I have undergone this process for people prior to this time as well so below are the details. (It is a pity though that you do not have your Swiss passort intact and up-to-date as you would have been waived for this fee).
Our Government (United Kingdom) Main Application Fee for a UK work permit is £488 and £95 for homeland fee making an overall sum of £583, You should understand that as a United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & European citizens holding their international passport, entrance permits are at a reduced fee at rate given above, other nationalities pay more. I will do the application and payment in your name at our Consulate and send you necessary binding documents.
Usually, It takes between 1-14 weeks to get a permit depending on the category such permit may fall into, But if we process expressly and I append the application as a staff it will take just about one week and a maximum of two weeks give or take some delays in courier or so since it is categorized as ‘ministerial/religious’ under the UK Tier 5 work permit, It will take a week and a few days to process. If you are ready to proceed (which I advise you should) We would as well need you to send to us the below stated documents.
Full Name of applicant:
invitation Letter from Sponsor:
Now, you will have to make the application fees payment and I will later send you the official UK TIER 5 WORK PERMIT FORM and the UKBA SCREENING FORM as an allied country citizen you do not need to fill the immigration assessment form as you are already eligible. We might only need your thumbprints at the United kingdom border on entry into the UK.
Please, be swift with your response because you know documents after been processed by the UK immigration might delay a bit, give or take 2-3days, It would be advisable you start processes a bit ahead of time.
Have a Wonderful day.
United Kingdom Border Agency.
At this point my e-mail had turned into a Red Flag production factory and I became weary of the whole situation.
BEHOLD THE MIGHTY POWER OF GOOGLE!
I popped Patricia Coleman, Border Agency into the search engine and the word SCAM began appearing everywhere.
As if to confirm my findings about an hour after Patricia’s e-mail, I received a third requesting that I complete the Tier 5 Work Permit paperwork and send it over. Once I had e-mailed the paperwork I would need to wire $1,000 USD in order to have the application processed.
Now hip to what was really going on, I decided to play things out just to see what happened.
At this point many e-mails had been exchanged with members of the organization and I had even spoken on the phone with one. I replied back to the request for the wire with:
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I have received your request for $1,000 to be wired in order to expedite the Tier 5 Work Permit application in time for the conference in August. As I mentioned this additional cost will be added into my already quoted fee so that there is no loss on our end.
In reviewing your request with my attorney, I must ask that the fee be covered up front by your organization.
Please let me know if this will be possible so that we may continue forward with the contracts.
Within minutes I received a phone call from “Phylis” from 321-200-1024. 321 being a Florida area code.
I was told that because of the structure of the sponsorship for the conference, I would need to pay the application fee. I reminded her that “Edward Smith” had confirmed that my payment up front wouldn’t be a problem and that the $1,000 could be taken from the fee that I would be receiving with the signed contract.
She said she would have to check with Reverend Dunning and I would hear from her soon.
I then received an e-mail from “Dunning” requesting an immediate delivery of the money.
I responded back that I would not be able to front the money and that I was hesitant to continue with the engagement because I had heard about scams from UK churches involving speakers.
I received an e-mail back reading like a Sunday sermon assuring me that there wouldn’t be a problem.
I replied back terminating the agreement and promising to report them.
People I spoke with along the way were:
Pastor Thomas Edwards, First Baptist Church England Firstbaptistchurchengland@minister.com
Reverend Phil Dunning firstname.lastname@example.org
Edward Smith email@example.com
Patricia Coleman UK Border Agency firstname.lastname@example.org
Reverend Brian Moody email@example.com
Phylis Kamps 321-200-1024, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reverend Michael Silver email@example.com
I would caution other speakers to do their due diligence when receiving requests to work internationally. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
When in doubt- GOOGLE IT!
Have you ever received a scam e-mail? Share your tale!
Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com
You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.
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