Performance scams: Beware

I got an innocuous email the other day from the UK requesting that I come over for a concert.  Currently, Live in Charleston is airing in the UK and I am hearing from people there, so I assumed that was the reason for the invitation.

The event described was a large conference in a church in Wales.  I checked out the church. It was orthodox and the pastor was impressive, and I sent a quick response asking for information.  Here is the email that came back the next day.

Dear Greg Howlett,

Thanks so much for indicating your interest to be our guest artiste for this year VICTORY PRAISE YOUTH AND ADULT CONFERENCE 2011.We are very excited and happy to have such a wonderful personality in our midst.

The event organizing committee had a meeting few hours ago to deliberate on getting you available here in the United Kingdom after receiving your letter. We believe we serve the Lord of Possibilities. Arrangements are stated below.

We have attached a formal Letter of Invitation and contract agreement. Please reconfirm to us your Mailing Address and Cell phone number for our perusal and further action. Note you are meant to arrive a day before the commencement of the event.

Please return a signed copy of the contract agreement for proper documentation.

We have agreed to take care of your hotel accommodation expenses, feeding and ground transportation including airline ticket booking.

Also your Performance fee is amounted to 10,500 Dollars. $7,250 deposit is to be paid as soon as you procure all relevant travel documents  so as to avoid any disappointment. You are informed to get across your UK WORK PERMIT to us so your deposit can be approved according to our mandated rules and regulation.

You are advised by the Event Organizing committee to immediately contact the UK BORDER AGENCY staff to procure your UK Entry Clearance as soon as possible.

This will enable us to proceed with all arrangements to welcome you here in London due to the new British Rules. Contact the UK Border Agency staff information below for immediate assistance with regarding the process.

Name: Dr Warren Smith
Address :29 Brown Street,
Postcode: W1G 9QR
Country: London, United Kingdom
Tel: +442075588029

You will be able to sell your merchandise. such as books, Cd’s and other items, the expected attendance is 2500 massive spectators.

Please confirm to us the closest Airport to your location so we can start making arrangements to buy your flight ticket.Understand that you need to expedite action because of the short notice. Do not hesitate to call me on  + 44 7024081949.I will try to give you a call at my earliest convenience.

We await your earliest response

Be Blessed

Yours Sincerely
Pastor Richard Taylor
+ 447024081949

Alarm bells went off immediately for many reasons.  First of all, the terms were out of line.  Payment of $10,500 for an event like that is highly unlikely.  Frankly, almost every Christian musician out there would be happy to do an event like this if their expenses were picked up and they were paid some token amount.

Secondly, no large event would schedule musicians so late in the game. And thirdly, the tone and language of this letter sounds ummm, Nigerian?

BTW, the part about UK entry clearance is actually legitimate.  If you perform in the UK, that is considered work and you have to have permission.  I learned this the hard way a few years ago when I just barely managed to get into the UK for a concert because I did not have a work visa.

But, it is clearly a scam.  I don’t know where the scam lies, but I suspect money would be requested of me when I tried to get a work permit (the email address of the UK border staff looks decidedly suspicious).  Or perhaps they would ask for my bank account information to give me the $7500 deposit and then would drain it instead.

I posted this because it is sort of humorous but also to help those of you who do this kind of thing.  A friend of mine in a popular Southern Gospel group was also contacted for this event and went far enough into the process to call the numbers (at that point, the accents of the people he talked to set off warning bells).

And sadly, a quick perusal of the internet indicates some people seem to have fallen for this.  A few preachers actually have this event on their public schedule.

The most ironic thing about it is this: if Nigerian scammers are looking for victims to steal from, Christian musicians should probably not be their first choice.  Stealing from Christian musicians is a sure way to go broke. 🙂