A short while ago I received a typo-laden e-mail from someone I had never heard of. That was enough to trigger my fraud Spidey-sense™, but when I Googled this scam I discovered that some folks have been taken by it. Since I haven’t seen or heard much about it in SF/F circles, I wanted to spread the word as a public service, in case anyone out there hasn’t encountered these jerks.
First, here is the e-mail in its entirety (note that they even misspelled their own name in the “from” field):
——– Original Message ——–
|Subject:||INVITATION FOR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT|
|Date:||Wed, 5 Nov 2014 02:20:41 +0100|
|From:||First baptish Church <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
INVITATION FOR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT Dear David, Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, My Name is Rev Todd Jason from the First Baptist Church we are writing to Invite you to be our guest Speaker at the up Coming First Baptist Church 2015 Convention 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 2015 Convention. Other Ministers Of God are coming from Different part of the World. The Venue as follows: DATE: 10th Match 2015 VENUE: London AE16 4QQ England, Website: http://www.amazing-gracechurch.webs.com/ Email: Firstbaptistchurchengland@gmail.com Expected audience: 300 people Duration of speech per speaker: 1 Hour Name of Church/Organization Host: REV TODD JASON Topic: LEADERSHIP MARRIAGE COMMUNICATION COMEDY Theme: TIME OF FULFILLMENT REFERENCE: EVENT BROCHURE SIGNING OF AUTOGRAPH: ALLOWED SELLING OF CD'S AND BOOKS: ALLOWED. TELEPHONE: + 44-795-276-3257 We came across your profile on http://www.infinitydog.com/ Isaiah 48:17 said I am them Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you. The spirit lord of God 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 for these overwhelming gathering. Arrangement to welcome you here will be discussed as soon as you honor this invitation.If you have any more publicity Material, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are taking care of your traveling Meal and Hotel Accommodation expenses including your Honorarium fees you are bless as you honor this invitation it is a pleasure writing you. May God Bless you as you honor this invitation. In His Services, Rev Todd Jason First Baptist Church TELEPHONE: + 44-795-276-3257
HOW THE SCAM WORKS
First, they hook you with the promise of a lucrative speaker’s fee. As in, they’ll offer fees as high as $10,000 or even more. They’ll reserve you a room at a swank hotel. (This is easy enough, since most hotel reservations can be canceled without penalty.)
They avoid setting off alarms by not asking for personal financial info. They won’t ask for bank info, or your social security number. I thought it might be a scam connected to passport numbers. But it’s more insidious than that.
Once they’ve persuaded you that you stand to rake in thousands of dollars in profit — after all, they’re offering to cover your airfare, hotel, and incidental costs — they’ll tell you that to take such a lucrative gig in the U.K. requires a Tier 5 Work Permit Visa, for which an expensive application must be filed on your behalf by your prospective employer.
They will then deluge their target (i.e., you) in e-mails, some purportedly forwarded from representatives of Her Majesty’s government, explaining the Byzantine nature of the situation. Some reports have said that they will numb prospective targets with up to 60+ e-mails over several weeks.
When it all shakes out, they will explain that, for legal reasons, they must be able to show that the funds for the application came directly from the applicant (i.e., you). So they ask you to send them a Western Union cash transfer of £585 GBP so that they can expedite your Visa (since this is invariably done close to the event date, and “time is running out” to book your airfare).
If you wire the money, you will never see it or hear from the event’s organizers again.
They routinely change up the name of their church or the principals involved in the deal. A good summary can be found here on the blog of speaker Patrick Schwerdtfeger.
So be on the lookout for this one, folks. And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.