Insights · October 10th, 2011

If you are a professional speaker, be aware there is a quite slick Internet fraud out there. You get an email inviting you to speak at at a conference in Scotland (in my case) four weeks from now; the email comes from a Baptist Pastor. An internet search finds that this Pastor has indeed been assigned to the church in question, (Whytescauseway Baptist Church across the bay from Edinburgh) on Sep. 4, 2011. The offer is for a full speaking fee and travel, making mention of your profile in eSpeakers (where such fees are listed). While it is unclear how a church is getting that kind of money, if you indicate interest, you receive a formal invite letter and contract on [fake] Church letterhead from the event manager, who is a new name. The contract is quite detailed and typical of a European speaking contract, right up to the 50% deposit, the time and place of the event (the place is real when you look it up on the Net), and the fact that dress will be “business and business casual.” After returning the contract you get an email saying you will need a UK and Scottish work permit, for which an application fee is required. When you check at the UK Border Office web site, there are indeed work permits, applications and fees. The email from the scammer says by good fortune a church member works in the Border Office and can expedite your permit by carrying the application and fee in by hand, if you wire the application fee to her. Enough said.

I know of at least two other U.S. speakers caught in the scam so far. When, with better due diligence, I tracked down the real Pastor, he confirmed that they are aware of the scam and that the UK Police have been investigating for two weeks. I also contacted eSpeakers, who say they too have been aware of the scam, and that their marketing department is considering what to do.

So, if you are a pro speaker, and you get a letter saying hey, Person X and Glen Hiemstra and Person Y are all speaking at our event and you should too, you will know what is up. Bummer.

Note: this appears to have nothing to do with the actual Whytescauseway Baptist Church, which is also a victim of the scam.

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