Reposted from The Cripplegate.
Pastors: have you been invited to speak at a conference in Great Britain? Don’t fall for it. Unless your name is Steve Lawson, it’s a scam. This conference con is not only common in the United States, but I have heard of pastors in South Africa, Rwanda, and Ghana all getting snagged by it.
How in the world does someone scam pastors by inviting them to preach at a conference in the UK? Where is the money in that? Well, I found out, and here is how:
In 2017 my church’s general email account received this:
Dear Pastor Johnson,
I am Pastor Andrew Hobbs of Grace Church Blackwood, United Kingdom. We are writing to invite you to be our guest speaker at our upcoming conference tagged “POWER CONFERENCE 2017” coming up from 1st through 3rd of May 2017.
The purpose of this conference is to trigger the pursuit of deep Christianity among youth, young adult, old and partial Christians.
VENUE: Conference Hall (Inside Church Premises) Cefn Road, Blackwood, Gwent. NP14 3PR Date : May 1st to May 3rd 2017 Scheduled Topic: Pursuit of Deep Christianity
Theme: Reach Out and Touch Someone
The weekend of the conference is going to be filled with incredible times of worship, clear and relevant teachings and powerful encounters with God’s presence and your expertise and experience in this field of work will be an excellent addition to our program (POWER CONFERENCE 2017), as many of our visitors will look forward to hearing and learning from your work. It is an honor to be able to invite you to be a guest speaker for a talk on (Pursuit of Deep Christianity), as we have read your profile on your online website (https://immanuelbible.net/) and aware of your great contribution to this field of work.
We look forward to a positive response. If you can RSVP in 48 hours to our contact details (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will provide you with additional information you might require.
PS: Flight arrangement, hotel accommodation, ground transportation and honorarium will be sorted by the event organizing committee.
Pastor Andrew Hobbs
Grace Church Blackwood, UK
+44 7024 037959
Because our church receptionist is awesome, she emailed back asking for more information on the conference, namely whom I would be speaking with, and what time slots. Amazingly, she got a quick reply with a speaking line up and everything. They even included a link to a website advertising the conference.
Fortunately for me, some of the names included in the speaking lineup were a bit wacky and sounded a discernment alarm (Deborah Whitey and Apostle Robert Ashton). So our church receptionist called the number listed in Wales, and got a real church with real people…who had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. So at this point she knew it was a scam. She brought it to me, and asked what I thought we should do.
I forwarded it to a friend at the FBI, who told me that the emails were sent from the United States, and not from England. At this point, I was convinced it was either a scam or a prank… and I leaned toward prank because how could a scam like this be worth anyone else’s time? I even had my suspicions about which college pastor at Grace Community Church and D. Min director at The Master’s Seminary was most likely the guilty culprit. I mean, Deborah Whitey? This has to be a prank.
So I replied to the email, CCing my friend at the FBI:
Exciting and providential. I’ll be in the UK around that time, coming back from another event I’m speaking at in Africa, then spending some time up in Oxford, so I won’t need you to set me up with a flight. Send me more details, and I look forward to hearing from you.
All of this was true by the way. I was planning on being in Oxford that weekend, studying while on my way back from a ministry trip to Ghana. So I wasn’t technically lying, although I also don’t think I would have passed a lie detector test. Anyway, here is where I found out how they make their money:
Dear Pastor Jesse Johnson,
Thank you for agreeing to be the Guest Speaker for our POWER CONFERENCE 2017, from June 7th – 9th June 2017. Enclosed to this letter is a Speaker Contract, invitation Letter, Speaking Schedule, time and topic.
We will require your Mailing Address, airport information and recent photo for publicity materials and promotional update on our website. You are required to read the contract thoroughly, print it out, sign, and then send back a scanned copy of the contract via email attachment.
VISA REQUIREMENT: Download the attached VISA REQUIREMENT Guide and follow instructions stated in it.
Information in regards to Honorarium, Book/CD sales and other Conference logistics has been noted in the Speaking Engagement Contract.
In His Grip.
Pastor Andrew Hobbs
Grace Church Blackwood, UK
Attached to that email was a promotional flier for the event, along with a schedule, which even had coffee breaks detailed in it. How very British! But I also noticed that the dates had changed since the first email, and this new email had a form to fill out for a Visa application, along with a contact information for the UK Border Agency (which I’m pretty sure does not even exist—isn’t it an island?). Long story short, for only $400 they can expedite my “Tier 5 Temporary Worker Visa.”
I was disappointed to not get more information on Apostle Robert or Deborah Whitey, but excited that I finally figured out how the scam worked.
I replied thus:
Why are you trying to scam pastors? Don’t you know hell is real?
I also included a link to the Living Waters Are you a Good Person test.
I never heard back…
But since then I have heard from scores of other pastors who have received similar emails. Interestingly, not all of them are American. I’ve heard of some from South Africa, Ghana, and Rwanda all getting tangled up in this. It strikes me as a lot of work for $400 a pop, but it has been going on for at least 3 years now, so some people must be sending money.
If you love your pastor, don’t send him this blog post…that’s just mean…but do tell him to subscribe to The Cripplegate!