Jun 062012
 

 

Speaker Scam

UK Speaker SCAM: Church and/or University in the UK looking for a keynote speaker for an upcoming leadership workshop; Tier 5 Work Permit fees required via Western Union. Here’s the full story:

On May 15, 2012, I was solicited by a church in the UK (via my website) to speak at their upcoming leadership workshop. A series of emails went back and forth, containing various details and expectations. In order to speak there, I would need a Tier 5 Work Permit from the UK Border Agency and because the event was quickly approaching, I was introduced by email to someone at the parish who works for the UK Border Agency and can get expedited processing for my application.

I was emailed an official 52-page PDF application for a Tier 5 Work Permit with specific instructions on how to fill it out. The form is legitimate and you can find documentation online confirming that only a UK employer can submit such an application. Once I had filled it out and gotten passport photos made, I was asked to send 583 GBP via Western Union so she could submit the application and pay the fee in cash.

They said they had a sponsor and offered to pay me $10,000 USD as a speaking fee, along with all travel expenses. This seems high for a church but does fall within my standard fee structure (at least for domestic events), so it didn’t seem too unusual at the time. Here are all the names and email addresses of the people I communicated with:

  1. Reverend Michael Silver rev.michaelsilver@gmail.com
  2. Reverend Brian Moody revbrianmoody199@gmail.com
  3. Reverend Phil Dunning revphildunning@gmail.com
  4. Edward Smith eechurch@hotmail.com
  5. Patricia Coleman UK Border Agency p.coleman@workmail.com (real name verified by Western Union)
  6. Susan Aires Dransfield Novelty Company dransfieldnoveltyco@london.com
  7. Phylis Kamps 321-200-1024 (mobile)

Here is a blog post that details how these same people have done this dozens of times since 2010. At the time of this writing there are 94 comments on their post and I will be adding my own shortly. I have included a number of emails below so you can get an idea of how these people communicate.

Email #1: Initial Solicitation

Name: Rev.Michael Silver
Email: rev.michaelsilver@gmail.com

Message: I am Reverend Michael Silver , presiding Minister of the Emmanuel Evangelical (Baptist) Chapel, Newport, United Kingdom. We are pleased to inform you that we would like to engage you to speak at our Church Lunch event here in Newport coming up on the 1st of June and we are also arranging our ‘Leadership development Program’ workshop on the 2nd & 3rd of June 2012.

Please we would like you to convey to us your availability for one of the dates as it can fit in your schedule. Also, please we would as well appreciate if you get back in-touch with us in ample time so we can start corresponding the details.

Thank you and expecting to hear from you soon.

Remain Blessed
Reverend Michael Silver
+447031873786
Emmanuel Evangelical (Baptist) Chapel,
Rutland Place,
Newport,
NP20 2EL,
Wales.
United Kingdom

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9.

Email #2: Initial Request for Money

Good day Patrick, I understand that you are Emmanuel Evangelical 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:
Passport Number:
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.

Patricia Coleman.
United Kingdom Border Agency.
N.A.

p.coleman@workmail.com
790-871-7081

Email #3: Second Request for Money

Good Morning Reverend, Deacon Edward, At the start of work today, I was notified by the issuing dept. that Patrick’s work permit cannot be issued out as yet, Non-Briton Immigrants coming into the United Kingdom and taking up a legally paid job will need to secure their stay with a bond otherwise referred to as a repatriation fee, And since Patrick falls under such category as she is non-British immigrant, The Home office has required that such applicants pay a refundable sum of 2,500GBP as a ‘Bond’ to enact their stay. As soon as they get back to their respective countries, the fee will be paid back to them in full. This law has been in the books for a while but it wasn’t effective for a long time now, But the new excos at the Consul has decreed it should be applicable and be 100% effective henceforth for working immigrants applying for the work permit.

I am emailing you now so you can find a way to forward to me the funds so I can make the payments asap since you have advised that time is of essence in this application. I will forward to you the ‘bond holding letter’ in the name of the applicant which is Patrick, he will be able to claim the funds at the USA Consul when he gets back home.

Warren Germain already sent me the funds for his bond, He will get the documents today, I have forwarded to him the fedex tracking number so he could monitor as well (Just informing you).

Reverend, Edward, send the funds to me on Patrick’s behalf as he might be relunctant to send such amount of money, So I need you to forward the funds on his behalf, Once he is back in the USA the bond will be liquidated and you will negotiate on how to have the funds back.

PLEASE REPLY SOONEST !!!

Patricia Coleman.
United Kingdom Border Agency.
N.A.

ukba.patriciacoleman@workmail.com
790-871-7081

Final Notes

It should be noted that there were well over 50 or 60 emails involved in this process, involving Reverend Michael Silver, Edward Smith and Patricia Coleman. Many details were discussed. I was even sent a hotel confirmation at the Park Plaza Cardiff (Greyfriars Road, Cardiff, CF10 3AL, United Kingdom) along the way. So the whole thing appeared completely legitimate at the time. I would even say it was more organized than other events I have spoken at.

So, what can I say? They got me. I’m embarrassed. In the end, it’s not that big of a deal. The money transfer cost me $1048 USD (Western Union is a rip-off) so it’s not really that much money, but that’s not the point.

My speaking career has taken me to every major city in the USA and cities across Canada and Mexico, as well as destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. I get many solicitations that seem “too good to be true” so I can’t really filter on that criteria. Here are the red flags which I ignored:

  1. Public email addresses only (gmail, hotmail and workmail).
  2. No mention of the leadership workshop on the church’s website.
  3. I was requested to send money urgently to an individual.

When I was invited to speak in India, I had to get a VISA first and it cost me $160 USD, but I made those arrangements directly with the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. So my learning point is that I will NEVER send money to an individual again.

I have filed a complaint with Western Union but have heard they can’t do much. It doesn’t really make sense to me. The person who picks up the funds has to show identification verifying their identity. That means there must be something the authorities can track. But who’s going to hunt that down? Anyway, if anything comes of it, I will update this post.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that the recipient DID pick up the funds in the UK. So I’m sure Patricia Coleman actually exists and I’m also sure she was in the UK on May 29, 2012.

Did this scam happen to you?

If you have had a similar experience, please tell your story in the comments below. I am publishing this post to hopefully help other speakers avoid this situation in the future. Thank you.
 

  115 Responses to “UK Work Permit Church Scam for Speakers”

  1. They just sent me a request this Friday. I am so thankful to have found this post.
    Bless y’all.
    Johnny

  2. Wow! This just happened to me too. I found this post as I Googled the email address to check it out, so I didn’t get past the first email. How sad on many levels, but mostly because they portray themselves as Christians. Thanks for putting this post up. I thought I was taking the family to England.

  3. I just got an email like this today. I was suspicious, googled the church name, and found your post. Thanks for detailing your experience.

  4. Was pretty sure it was a scam, but you just confirmed it! My email was from a university, but the rest of the details are the same. email was coventryuniversityseminar@gmail.com. There is a Justin Cobb (no s), a Dr. at a different University and Coventry University. Just no Dr. Cobbs at Coventry. They found me on a website where I was a guest on a radio show. My first clue was that a surgeon in the UK had a poor command of the English language.

    Subject: COVENTRY UNIVERSITY SEMINAR 2014.

    Respected Peggy Harper Lee,

    I am Dr Justin Cobbs from the Coventry University Campus Here in
    London UK. We want you to be our guest Speaker at this Year Coventry
    University Seminar which will take place here in UK. We are writing to
    invite and confirm your booking to be our guest Speaker at this year’s
    event.

    Coventry University London Campus.

    The Venue as follows:
    VENUE: Coventry University London Campus,
    East India House, 109-117 Middlesex Street, London.
    Postcode: E1 7JF
    Expected audience: 850 people
    Duration of speech per speaker: 1 Hour
    Name of Organization: Coventry University London Campus.
    Topic: ”HEALTHY LIVING”
    Date: 4th February 2014

    We came across your profile on http://www.marnie.com/ and we say it’s
    up to standard and be very glad to have such an outstanding
    personality in our mist for these overwhelming gathering. Arrangements
    to welcome you here will be discussed as soon as you honor our
    invitation. If you have any more publicity material, please do not
    hesitate to contact us.

    A formal Letter of invitation and Contract agreement would be sent to
    you as soon as you honor our Invitation. We are taking care of your
    traveling and Hotel Accommodation expenses including your Speaking
    Fee. If you will be available for our event, state your speaking fees
    In your email so it can be included in your CONTRACT AGREEMENT.

    Stay Blessed.

    Dr Justin Cobbs
    Coventry University Seminar.

  5. Thank you for your post. I had just receive a similar invitation from UK. I new it was scam but I reply and also contacted the true church and Pastor, I give them the information so maybe they can contact authorities and get this people out of business.
    Again Thanks…

  6. Got email today…wow!

    I am Dr Justin Cobbs from the Coventry University Campus Here in
    London UK. We want you to be our guest Speaker at this Year Coventry
    University Seminar which will take place here in UK. We are writing to
    invite and confirm your booking to be our guest Speaker at this year’s
    event.

    Coventry University London Campus.

    The Venue as follows:
    VENUE: Coventry University London Campus,
    East India House, 109-117 Middlesex Street, London.
    Postcode: E1 7JF
    Expected audience: 850 people
    Duration of speech per speaker: 1 Hour
    Name of Organization: Coventry University London Campus.
    Topic: ”HEALTHY LIVING”
    Date: 4th February 2014

    We came across your profile on http://www.marnie.com/ and we say it’s
    up to standard and be very glad to have such an outstanding
    personality in our mist for these overwhelming gathering. Arrangements
    to welcome you here will be discussed as soon as you honor our
    invitation. If you have any more publicity material, please do not
    hesitate to contact us.

    A formal Letter of invitation and Contract agreement would be sent to
    you as soon as you honor our Invitation. We are taking care of your
    traveling and Hotel Accommodation expenses including your Speaking
    Fee. If you will be available for our event, state your speaking fees
    In your email so it can be included in your CONTRACT AGREEMENT.

    Stay Blessed.

    Dr Justin Cobbs
    Coventry University Seminar.

    Tel: + 44 703 193 7157

  7. I just got this email today!! Thought it was a scam.. your page confirmed it! Thank you so much!!

  8. The scam continues in 2014 – I just today received the one from “Dr Justin Cobb” at Coventry University. It sounded fishy to me, but your post only confirmed what I suspected – thank you for sharing your experience as a lesson and warning to others! Sue B

  9. Just received the same email. It indicated the speakers bureau in which I am listed, so it sounded legitimate at first. Glad I saw your page.

  10. I got this email too. I replied originally with my speaking fee of $4,333 and they agreed immediately, sent me this lame one page contract that I did not return because I wanted to investigate first. The guy even called me a few days ago saying the woman from the British Embassy was trying to get ahold of me. I emailed her three times and never got a reply so I told him that.

    I asked him how much the work permit was and he said it was $1800. I told him I would have to investigate that more because I have heard of UK work permit scams going on. He said a bunch of Christian type things, obviously preying on that because he knows I came from a Christian Speaker’s website. Before I spoke to him on the phone, he immediately would respond to my emails but after I spoke to him and mentioned the scams I heard of, he never once would respond to my emails. I went online to research this and found this page. Thanks so much for, I will not pursue this anymore. This is the person and email that I got as well: Dr Justin Cobbs from the Coventry University Campus and his email (which raised flags from day 1 since it was a gmail email and not from the University…. Justin Cobbs this is the email….

    I am Dr Justin Cobbs from the Coventry University Campus Here in London UK. We want you to be our guest Speaker at this Year Coventry University Seminar which will take place here in UK. We are writing to invite and confirm your booking to be our guest Speaker at this year’s event.

    Coventry University London Campus.

    The Venue as follows:
    VENUE: Coventry University London Campus, East India House, 109-117 Middlesex Street, London.
    Postcode: E1 7JF
    Expected audience: 850 people
    Duration of speech per speaker: 1 Hour
    Name of Organization: Coventry University London Campus.
    Topic: ”HEALTHY LIVING”
    Date: 4th February 2014

    We came across your profile on http://www.marnie.com/ and we say it’s up to standard and be very glad to have such an outstanding personality in our mist for these overwhelming gathering. Arrangements to welcome you here will be discussed as soon as you honor our invitation. If you have any more publicity material, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    A formal Letter of invitation and Contract agreement would be sent to you as soon as you honor our Invitation. We are taking care of your traveling and Hotel Accommodation expenses including your Speaking Fee. If you will be available for our event, state your speaking fees In your email so it can be included in your CONTRACT AGREEMENT.

    Stay Blessed.

    Dr Justin Cobbs
    Coventry University Seminar.

    Tel: + 44 703 193 7157

  11. I was contacted two days ago with the same story—seminar in South Africa, etc.—supposedly sent by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the successor to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I am, in fact, an author, and my book, Saving Civility, has quotes from Archbishop Tutu interspersed within the text, which is how, I thought , my name might have been passed along. At first, I was rather giddy with excitement. Since I also am an Anglican here in the States, I even offered to speak free of charge, if my travel expenses were reimbursed. When I received a response a few hours later with all of the details, I was informed that I would be paid $20,000 USD, plus my expenses. At that point, I became very suspicious. There were also a lot of misspellings and missing words within the text of the e-mail. I tried to telephone the office of the Archbishop in South Africa—via Skype—this morning, but the call would immediately cut off. (The phone number provided—which I traced through reverse phone lookup—was, in fact, a mobile phone. Returning home just a bit ago, I decided to Google the name of the seminar event and discovered this website, which, not surprisingly, reveals the this is a SCAM! Obviously, I am not responding to any more e-mails from this bogus organization. BEWARE, as this is occurring beyond the borders of the U.K.

  12. Patrick, I received the Coventry University Seminar/ Dr. Justin Cobbs letter on 1/27/14 also. I ignored it because a Ph.D. in an English speaking country typically can speak English without elementary school type flaws. The letter did cite an organization in which I’m a member as its source for finding me.

    Regardless, instinct said something was off. Today, I began seeking to determine why and found your note. I think it’s wonderful that you disclosed this. Looking at this listing in the comments section, you’ve spared a lot of people.

    Blessings.

  13. Hi All – so Happy I found this site! Thank you Patrick for posting your story, and I am sorry to see that they scammed you.

    I received a similar request from “Hillsong Church” in South Africa. The initial request came through my keynote speaker website and was very similar to the ones the rest of you received. I speak all over the world, and found nothing unusual – until they asked for money to be sent Western Union. I immediately called the South African Consulate and learned that US Citizens do not need work permits. I then received a BS excuse why this was not the case, and the “home office” needed this money quickly.

    I’ve since ignored them, but they keep asking. Fortunately, I’m not out any money, just wasted time.

    Here is the latest email request if someone would like to respond to them directly with a few choice words or virtual middle finger :) Note below that they use a simple spoof to mask the actual email address (workmail.com) with one that seems to come from the South African government. That is one clue – the actual address will show when you reply. When conducting my diligence I also noted that no one named Linda Jacoline actually works at the home office.

    Feel free to email me if you’d like to further commiserate: eric@ericoneill.net.

    *********************************************************************

    From: linda.jacoline@dha.gov.za
    Date: Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 12:21 PM
    Subject: Re: Work Permit.
    To: Eric ONeill

    Hello Mr. O’Neill, I am still waiting to receive the payment information I have received the letter of recommendation from the Church today and earl documents are in order for submission.
    Please advice,


    Linda Jacoline
    Department of Home Affairs, RSA.
    N.A.

    linda.jacoline@home-affairs.gov.za
    070 240 78258 ext 45

  14. Total Scam. So sad! Marnie

  15. I really wanted to tell them how excited I was to be offered such an honor…and so in preparation I would like to send money ahead and have it already there to take in a little extra travel while in country…”so please send me your bank account number and all necessary ID numbers so I can deposit and make withdrawals from your account.”

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