Have you ever been invited to speak internationally? Nor had I, until recently.
Yet it was a scam.
I want to share the story with you as a heads up. What do we look for in an invitation for speak internationally, or locally, to determine if it is a legitimate request of your time and talent? Do all the puzzle pieces fit?
1. It started with an email from Northumbria University titled Invitation.
Dr. Terry Hodge from this extremely prestigious institution wanted me as their guest speaker for this year’s Northumbria University Seminar. “We are writing to invite and confirm your booking to be our guest speaker at this year’s event.”
Ok, so far so good. My ego was stroked. Really stroked; embarrassing to admit.
The letter sited an official website as their source for obtaining my speaking credentials where I am listed with many other Christian speakers.
Stay blessed, Dr. Terry Hodge.
I googled the institution. Legit.
Alumni include Sting – the singer – and Jony Ive, or should I say Sir Jonathan Paul Ive, KBE, HonFREng, RDI, an English industrial designer who is currently the Chief Design Officer of Apple and chancellor of the Royal College of Art in London, among other very well known individuals.
Dr. Terry Hodge I did not find, yet I found a Christopher Hodge on staff. Odd.
I wanted to know, so I prayed, asking God if this is from You, make it clear. If not, please close the door and make it obvious that this invitation is not from You. If not, let me share with others to illuminate how insidious the enemy is, inviting Christian speakers to present at their “events.”
I’ll summarize the string of emails. Where ALL CAPS are used, that is how the email was written, so you can see the emphasis.
2. I responded, yes I’m interested and honored to work within the budget of the Seminar.
3. The response indicated they were willing to do “whatever possible” to have me there, so “please send your speaker fees so we can send your CONTRACT AGREEMENT AND LETTER OF INVITATION to proceed welcoming you here on Sunday.”
4. So I sent a figure for the speaking engagement.
5. The reply started with Respected Susan B. Mead
Some of the highlights of this reply are included here:
Thanks for indicating your interest…
We have agreed to buy your flight ticket and pay your Hotel accommodation expenses. Also your speaking fee. Deposit of XXX to be paid as soon as you procure all relevant travel documents and the balance to be paid immediately after your presentation.
This will enable you to proceed with all arrangements to welcome you here. Contact the British Embassy official information below.
Name: Dr Allan Hodgkinson
Please return a signed copy of the contract agreement vial email attachment for proper documentation.
We await your earliest response.
Professor Terry Hodge
Two attachments; an official (looking) invitation and contract with school emblem, header and logo as well as their Tax ID NO:
Logos of several sponsors of well-known, actually top-tier, institutions were listed on the contract.
Also – I find this interesting – Maximum Security Powered by:
Police – the logo was missing the top part of the logo… so not sure what police jurisdiction
Police Service Northern Ireland
In witness thereof…
Hum, I found it very interesting what’s included supposedly to allay any concerns regarding fraud.
You are advised to go through the contract carefully, sign it and return via email attachment with a photograph of you to make posters and banners of you.
Make sure you get in touch with Dr. Allan Hodgkinson of the BRITISH EMBASSY to procure your UK WORK PERMIT. Due to the high level of reputation Dr. Allan holds at the BORDER AGENCY he will be able to get the PERMIT procured within no time.
I await update on your UK WORK PERMIT. Make sure you send me a copy of the PERMIT as soon as it is procured from the EMBASSY and I forward a copy to our FINANCAIL DEPARTMENT for both your DEPOSIT and all expenses spent on your PERMIT to be reimbursed.
I await your attachments and update.
Professor Terry Hodge
6. I read the contract – to make sure I could not be bound legally to anything if a scam. Thank God I worked with millions of dollars in legal contracts in my years with Johnson and Johnson. Then signed and returned the agreement as I had to find out if this were legit or illicit.
7. Contract received by Dr Terry Hodge. Awaiting your UK WORK PERMIT.
8. From Dr. Allan Hodgkinson
UK WORK PERMIT LIST OF REQUIREMENTS
I Acknowledged the receipt of your mail. Without any waste of time and due to short period of time we have left to proceed with the issuance of these important documents. Fortunately for you I will be processing some files today at the UK BORDER AGENCY.
You are advised to immediately Provide me with the listed requirements. View attachment below and get back to me with all requirements so I can proceed on the procurement of your PERMIT.
In your service.
Dr Allan Hodgkinson
British Embassy Official
Attachment started with an official crest
British Embassy and the Union Jack flag
List of requirement’s needed for obtaining a Tier 5 UK WORKING PERMIT
1. Letter of Invitation.
2. Full Name of Applicant.
3. One passport photograph.
4. UK Work Permit fees 416 Pound.
5. DATE OF BIRTH
You are instructed to send your Permit fees directly to my BANK ACCOUNT today
Those details were listed
Make sure you attach the payment slip for record Purpose.
In your service
Dr. Allan Hodgkinson
British High Commission official
And there was my red light – the UK Work Permit fees of 416 Pound to be sent directly to an individual’s bank and a request for my birth date.
Let’s look at this string to see the other Red Flags that indicate it is a scam versus an honest request from the institution.
The first email arrived Thursday evening at 7:48 PM Central US time.
The UK is about 6 to 7 hours different, therefore, this university official was sending the request at approximately 2:48 or 3:48 AM their time and replying as late at 9:50 PM Central US time, or 4:50 or 5:50 AM their time.
First red flag
2. Sense of Urgency due to the Timing of the Presentation
The seminar was scheduled on June 3. Less than 4 days later.
For a keynote speaker with banners and flyers to be prepared as the letter indicated, the timing of the event and invitation was very suspect, as most keynote speakers are contracted well in advance for several reasons, including publicity purposes.
This sense of urgency was the second red flag
3. Email address of the sender
The name of the university is Northumbria University yet the email address “Dr Terry Hodge” used was NorthumbriaUniversitySeminar@gmail.com.
School officials typically have a work email address. In the US, college email addresses tend to end in .edu. I do not know if this is standard in the UK, yet a gmail (or other non-official institution email) address is suspect, at best.
Third red flag.
4. The language used in the email
Stilted, as well as awkward, language comprised the text within the email thread. Emphasis, capitalization, incorrect punctuation, title changes from one email to the next and other errors indicated a legitimate cause for my concern regarding the legitimacy of this invitation to speak.
Fourth red flag
5. Direction to contact a particular individual
The direction to contact a particular individual within the British Embassy was of particular note to me.
Fifth red flag
6. Once again, I noticed the email address of this individual.
Gov.mail usually comes after the @ sign instead of before…
Sixth red flag
7. Request for money
The request for payment for the UK Work Permit to be made directly to an individual’s bank account was THE Red Flag I had been looking for.
The timing of this request was Saturday morning, going back to the sense of urgency.
Seventh red flag
*FINAL Red Flag*
Look through the string of requests.
Name, address, birth date, photo – specifically a passport photo, bank account to “make a deposit”
Is this person scamming people to create illegal documents? Or withdraw money? They have a signed piece of paper from me, that means my signature is in their possession – I just thought about that! Oh my…
I searched scams on the internet to find out how to report and determined that to report as scam or fraud I had to have sent money. I had not done that so officially I am not a victim of a scam or fraud. Thank You Lord!
There is not even a place to send emails to the FBI regarding new scams. That point gives me pause as they must be slammed with input on new ways each and every day. Scary.
I pray this post opens your eyes (and mine) to the ways the enemy uses individuals to:
Stroke our egos
Create an unrealistic sense of urgency to respond
Create a sense of desire/greed in us indicating “whatever it takes” to get us
Get us to bypass our seeking God for our assignments
Stay alert and in prayer. Be aware of the tactics of the enemy. When we are following God’s will, the enemy WILL tempt and thwart us, like he did Jesus.
“Get behind me Satan.” To a close associate! It was not Peter, it was the enemy speaking through Peter to the Lord Jesus that Jesus spoke to.
“It is written…” Jesus said three times to the devil in the wilderness.