Professional speakers, beware. I hate that I have to write another post like this about scammers, but the pirates of the Internet are wreaking havoc in speaking world again.
The latest scam is a familiar take on a long-existing scam or con against professional speakers I’ve explained before. It seems as though too many good people heard about the previous scam, prompting the bad guys to make a few tweaks. Yet while the con artists have changed the names of the fake parties involved, it is essentially the same ruse. I hope you’ll read this post carefully, and share it far and wide so no speakers get caught up in the scam, losing precious time or money.
Last week a client of mine, who I will call Denise, posted inside my private client Facebook group how excited she was that she had been booked to speak for a church in England. Amid the congratulatory responses, I cautiously asked a couple of questions because there is a common con I still see speakers asking about in which a bishop at in a real church located in Jarrow, England invites unsuspecting speakers to present at a fake conference coming up soon.
Just as in the original scam, the scammers chose an actual church in England and even went as far as finding the name of the one-time lead pastor at that church. My client, “Denise,” has given me permission to share everything with you. including all correspondence, so you can protect yourself against the same or a similar scam.
The 6 warning signs you may be caught up in a speaking scam I addressed in an earlier post were present here to a certain extent; plus there are a few new ones I’ll share.
So here’s what happened. Each message is copied word for word, changing only “Denise’s” name and removing line breaks for space.
Message 1: We’re Interested in Hiring You.
The first thing that happened was my client received an email from her web contact form.
“Sent via website Contact Form
Revd Mark Duggan
BOOKING YOU TO SPEAK!!!
God’s blessing Denise, We hope this message meets you in good health.I am Revd Dr Mark Duggan, presiding
Minister of Bramley Baptist Church, Bramley Leeds, United Kingdom. We are pleased to inform you that we would
like to engage you for a speaking event here in Bramley Leeds at the Church conference coming up on the 25th, 26th
& 27th of October 2014. The conference is tagged: ‘Big things: How to start small’.
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
Thank you and expecting to hear from you soon.
Revd Dr Mark Duggan
Bramley Baptist Church,
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”
Now Denise is smart. She’s actually an attorney. The first thing she did was to Google the church and the pastor’s name. Both of which are REAL. She was curious as to why the pastor was listed only in one place online she could find as a past leader, but being excited for the opportunity and seeing that the place was a real church, her ideal market, she proceeded.
Yet even from this initial contact there are some curious warning signs such as:
- The email the reverend used was a gmail address not associated with the church. However, when I visited the church’s contact form, I saw the contact address for email was using the church’s domain, firstname.lastname@example.org,uk.
- There was no Mark Duggan listed in the leadership or staff of the church.
- Upon closer inspection of the church’s website, I was able to find their upcoming calendar of events. I went to the October schedule and lo and behold no event was listed for those dates, even though it’s clear this church keeps that calendar very current with ALL meetings listed.
- At most churches, the pastor is busy with more minister duties such as baptisms, weddings, funerals, marriage counseling, addictions counseling, visiting the sick in the hospital, etc. They very rarely will be the first to reach out when planning any kind of event. That is an administrative duty, and even the smallest of churches has at the very least a lovely church lady volunteering at the desk to answer phones and help plan events. In larger churches, there are people whose full-time occupation is to plan events.
- There are some English grammar peculiarities such as the use of “in-touch,” which has no hyphen.
- NO ONE ENGAGES YOU TO SPEAK WITHOUT AT THE VERY LEAST A PHONE CALL FIRST! Even if the meeting planner was referred to you or you know the person, unless you’ve spoken at several of their events in the past, and even then – you usually have at least one phone call to discuss the details.
TIP: Copy and paste the body of any message you receive. This speaker wrote about being contacted in the same way back in 2012 with different names. If you go there, you will notice the same exact wording Denise received in her initial contact. Lazy scammers.
Message 2: We Can Pay Your Fee.
“Thank you very much for your profound interest in this upcoming conference, I have a few
more details to share with you so you can have more insight on the conference and what
the church stands for as a whole.
(Inaugurated in the 19th Century, the annual Bramley Lecture is given in Bramley Baptist
Church on some aspect of the life and work of Bede or of Anglo-Saxon history or culture.
The lecture is published in the year following delivery and copies can be obtained in
Bramley Baptist Church or from the lecture secretary) This is an age-long history of our
It is due to this age-long ritual of giving lectures that we have decided to keep lectures
going though the type of lectures has evolved over the years we are proud to say we are
keeping the hope alive! It is due to this that we are hosting the conference come 25th, 26th
& 27th of October 2014 with about 600 people in attendance and we are pleased to notify
you that you have been chosen by our Event Organizing Committee to speak at this event
on recommendation of a staff of one of our sponsors, the YMF outreach and after checking
your credentials and after reading blogs about you, we received the Lords direction to invite
you to speak in this event and we also believe you are as well more than capable to deliver
in this occasion, We have decided among the Event Organizing Committee to invite you to
Since I was inaugurated as the Presiding Minister of this esteemed church, God has being
helping us to keep hope and monuments alive and we have also being able to change the
face of Christianity, and the church having a whole lot of history attached to it, for one, the
site of the oldest stained glass and home to the then Venerable Bede (the scientist) and one
of the oldest churches in this part, we also have about the oldest organ in England as well
as the Saxon crypt and we also have an history with the river Don. You can check out more
about the church and its history at:
Apart from the conference coming up by October,The church is as well involved in a few
other projects. For one, the church has dedicated the new school building to the Most
reverend Benjamin Heagreaves,(The second-ever Minister of the esteemed church) in view
of his many achievements, the website is under-construction.
Sending out the invitation to you is by virtue of Gods bearing plus human
recommendation, We need you to use your wealth of experience to sensitize the
congregation, We organized this conference and workshop also in the hope of trying to re-
organize the Church and further extend our impacts, So we can have people listen and be
inspired by speakers like yourself on topics ranging from business growth , surviving in a
bad economy, Futuristic speakers , family matters, to healthy living, which is why we chose
you to speak at this event as a keynote speaker. Also this conference will as well mark my
four year anniversary as the Presiding Minister of this blessed Church.
The conference theme has been carefully chosen by the Lords’ inspiration due to the
backdrop of the present situation in the United Kingdom and this year’s conference has
been tagged. ‘Big things: How to Start small’
You can email us the keynote you would like to speak on as we would want you to be
convenient with the keynote topic so we decided it would be better you choose it yourself as
long as its motivational and inspiring! We will as well need your bio to put up on our
website and start to design posters as well as hand bills,
We are inviting you so you can inspire this people, teach them how to triumph over the
deflating effects of set-backs & self-doubt, how to break free from whatever is keeping
them “small”, and become empowered by their challenges, rather than victimized. And
most importantly, how to start great things with small efforts and steadfastness
We would like to know your standard speaking fee for this engagement as we do indeed
have a sponsor, So we can negotiate this I believe, Our fees are based on budget and we
are not based with our speakers fee, We budget for every speaker according to what the
Event Organizing committee deem fit, But we will also be glad to negotiate.
All travel arrangements such as Flight fare, Speaking fee deposit as well as Hotel
accommodation will be taken care of by us as soon as you honor this invitation. The events
committee will send you all binding documents including a Letter of Invitation and Contract
Agreement as well.
Email us in ample time any questions you may have so we can move ahead.
You are blessed.
Revd Dr Mark Duggan”
Now that she was hooked, they wanted to reel her in. The provided her with a website link to an actual church. Then included some unintelligible detail about a website being under construction. If yellow flags were not raised before, they most certainly should be now. A man who speaks as a pastor in English would have a much stronger command of the language, whether in speech or writing. “God has being helping” is not a typo. It’s awkward phrasing, as is most of the message.
Message 3: We’re Sending You a Contract
Denise responded with another thank you and asked for an appointment to speak via Skype. She also has an online questionnaire for meeting planners to help provide some details, which she pointed the reverend to. She also asked how he heard about her. He ignored the request to speak and never told her how he found her, instead replying:
“Thanks for the correspond.I received your meeting planner information packet and your
speaking fee i will have the events committee contact you and send you the contract
agreement so you can review them and sign.
The honorarium is something we can handle and we are really to make the commitment.
Thank you and anticipating to have you here in United Kingdom.
Revd Dr Mark Duggan”
(email signature was the same as above, simply removed for space)
Now at this point, as a professional speaker, any of us might be getting excited. They know our fee and can pay it. No negotiation, just ready to pay. But again, there’s that pesky English grammar thing. Hmmmm….
Message 4: We Can Pay You AFTER You Get Us Travel Documents
The con is starting to reveal itself in this message. They bring in another name and email address – this one an outlook address, also not using the church’s URL. I’m highlighting the wording of the next phase of the scam:
Thank you Denise Smith for indicating your interest to be our Guest Speaker at this year’s conference, May God forever be with you.
I am Roselyn Mark, President of the event organizing committee of the Bramley Baptist Church conference . We believe you have been notified by our Presiding Minister Revd Dr Mark Duggan, as we are in charge of the smooth running of this event and by God’s grace we are bound to succeed.
We are very excited to have you in this conference. The event organizing committee had a meeting earlier today to deliberate on getting you available here in the United Kingdom. We believe we serve the lord of Possibilities.Note you are meant to arrive a day before your performance as to get familiar with the audio/visual gadgets that we have in place, and to get used to the environment as a whole and also get to relax from the jet lag.
We have attached a formal Letter of Invitation and a contract agreement,please reconfirm to us your Mailing Address for our perusal and further action.
Please return a copy of the contract agreement duly signed by you for proper documentation. Print it out, sign and scan back to us(Keep a copy as well). We have agreed to buy your flight ticket and to pay your Hotel accommodation expenses. Also your Speaking fee which amounted to $7,500 USD will not be paid in full as yet, $3,750 USD deposit is to be paid as soon as you procure all relevant travel documents so as to avoid any disappointment and the balance will paid in cash upon your arrival here. You are informed to get across your Work Permit in the UK to us so your deposit can be approved according to our mandated regulation as well as your UK visa for travels. If you do not have the permit please let us know so we can make arrangements for the documents to be processed quickly as the event is at hand. But if you do have the work permit just scan and send to us.
Please check the attached documents, It contains your letter of invitation as well as your letter of agreement. We expect your response in regards the documents asap. Thank you and may God bless us all.
Ah ha! Did you see that? At this point, along with the contract which looked close to a real letter of agreement, but was very unprofessional, my lawyer client Denise realized she was being taken. Just to be certain, she went to the church’s website, and contacted them. As we already knew, there is no such event. She played along, and when she tipped her hand that she was an attorney and had some serious questions, suddenly she heard nothing again.
Had Denise continued along the path of showing interest and not realized she was being taken, the next message would have asked her for money so they could expedite her work visa. But here’s the thing: according to the British government website those coming from the United States DO NOT NEED A VISA AS A SPEAKER in the UK! Copied directly from https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa/y/usa/work/six_months_or_less
You don’t need a visa if you’re coming to the UK for activities allowed under the following visas:
- a business visitor
- a sports visitor
- an entertainer
- a prospective entrepreneur
- a visitor doing a ‘permitted paid engagement’ (you must have been invited to the UK because of your expertise) – you can only stay for up to 1 month
- However, you should bring supporting documents to show at the border.
From the UK Visa page, if you click on the links above, you’ll see if you choose to apply for a visa as a citizen of the US, you can, but it clearly states that if you are simply a visitor doing a paid speaking engagement you do NOT need a visa if staying for less than one month. If you would like to apply for a visa even though you do not need one, the fee is £83 (about $140 USD). Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to steal your money. Those from other countries of origin, please check the rules for your country of origin.
Please do NOT let that happen to you.
Take a moment now and share this with the speakers you care about. Or even the ones you only like a little bit. We all can do our part to keep our industry as safe as possible from predators.