The Story of How I was a Victim of Fraud

If almost being deported wasn’t bad enough, upon my successful entry into the UK, Andrew’s and my next task was to find the supposed apartment I was renting for my time here.

I had seen the ad for this apartment on Craigslist (already this sounds bad, but stick with me) a few weeks before. It seemed legitimate. And, honestly, I was desperate. I’d been looking for a place to stay for months. Nothing had worked out or seemed to be what I needed. I was so excited to see this ad. I emailed the owner asking if the apartment was still for rent. This “Steven Coalson” responded the next day with pictures of the apartment and more information. It seemed perfect. I was going to have internet, TV, a nice bathroom, even a heated towel rack! Now, for those who have been to England, you know. A heated towel rack is nice. So we went through the negotiations of rent, etc. It’s difficult trying to rent an apartment from out of the country because I can’t meet with the owner or view the apartment ahead of time. I am exactly in the kind of situation that makes me vulnerable to scam artists. And I totally fell for it, because there’s really no way to have prevented it. I sent him my 600 pound deposit (almost $1000), and never heard from him again.

So Andrew and I showed up where the address of my apartment was supposed to be. There was a 22A Leinster Gardens, but not a 22 Leinster Gardens. Sneaky, sneaky scam artist. Unsure whether or not that “A” made a difference in the address, we tried ringing for the porter and calling the individual flats at that address, but no luck. The rest of the street was entirely little hotels. We didn’t think it would be worth it, but we went to the hotel across the street to ask if the concierge recognized the address or owner of my apartment. He didn’t, of course, but he let us use the internet to see if the owner had contacted me (we were hesitant to believe that it was a scam–maybe he was on vacation and hadn’t seen his emails???) and he kept our luggage in the hotel’s luggage room while we again ventured out into the street to try every single address. As expected, nothing. No one knew of a 22 Leinster Gardens or a Steven Coalson.

Thankfully, we knew of a couple staying in London and Andrew had had the foresight to get their phone number just in case anything went wrong. The first hotel’s concierge, Angel, was so sweet. This time he let us use his phone to contact Leanne and Milo, and when we got their address he printed out maps for us and told us the best way to get there.

The concierge’s name was Angel. This was not a coincidence. Before I had left, my mom sent me an email saying that her verse for me while I was gone was Psalm 91:11: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” I am not very superstitious, and I am exceedingly skeptical about things like this, but I just can’t believe that Angel was a coincidence.

Weary of our travels, Andrew and I left the hotel with our luggage once more and journeyed to Leanne and Milo’s house. We arrived exhausted from an emotional and physically demanding day. Leanne and Milo took us in and gave us the first food we’d had since the plane ride. Another couple, Sarah and Jimmy, whom we know from APU, happened to be staying at Leanne and Milo’s as well. We were suddenly welcomed into an environment of friends and comfort. I know my parents and friends were praying for us, and I just know that God’s angels had guided our travels that day so that in the end we arrived safe and in a better situation than we had anticipated.



Filed under Travel

The Story of How I Almost Got Deported

Talk about a rocky start to my time here in London.

After I found out that I’d been accepted to do this internship, I received an email from Anthem Press telling me all the exciting little details, such as the dress code (“smart casual”- this short, amorphous phrase has already caused me much wardrobe distress), what time to show up, and the fact that I might need to get a visa. I’m discovering that vagueness is quite English, and really I just needed to figure out for myself whether or not I needed a visa. So I attempted to find my answers at the UK Border Agency website. Not helpful. A short, unpaid internship simply does not fit the criteria for any particular visa nicely. I called the UK consulate in Los Angeles and talked to some very nice, unnamed lady who assured me that because my trip was short and I would not be paid, I did not need a visa. So on Monday I boarded the plane for London with my luggage, my passport, and my fiance, Andrew (really, he was the most essential part in this operation). And no visa.

The Border Agency was not too keen when I presented them with my passport, said I was here for an unpaid internship for two months, and expected to get through just fine. Apparently that nice, nameless lady was very much wrong, and now I very much wish I knew her name. A visa is, in fact, necessary even for unpaid internships for only two months. What’s frustrating is that anyone can walk into the UK and say they’re visiting friends or family or even just touring for up to six months without a visa, and it’s fine. If only I had lied. But, alas. Darned morals.

So my luggage was searched, thoroughly looking at everything (the officer even took the time to read my journals). She told Andrew that he was free to go into the country, but I had to stay behind. I felt my heart freeze for a moment as Andrew was given this choice. Would he go? No, thank God, he wanted to stay with me. She said he couldn’t come with me where they would take me to be interviewed and wait for a decision to be made, but he could stay near the airport information desk and she would call the info desk to inform him of whether or not they had decided to deport me. He asked if he could get on the same flight with me if I was deported. She seemed surprised by this question. “So, you want to go back with her, even if she is deported?” she asked, puzzled. “Yes,” he answered definitively. God bless him. In a situation of fear, it was comforting to know that he would stand by me. But we still had to say goodbye for a while, and we didn’t know how long that while would be.

I was taken into some back area of the airport with small hallways and tiny, dirty rooms with stacks of paper everywhere and officers drinking coffee. I was photographed and fingerprinted and then put in a room with a bunch of other detainees waiting to find out if they would be allowed in. I was told to just wait until they came back to interview me. ¬†All the while I talked to the only other American in the room, a girl about my age who was there to visit her fiance for 3 months. She had been detained because the Border Agency was afraid she didn’t have enough money to support herself for that time. Of course, she argued, she wouldn’t have many expenses because she’d be staying with her fiance and he would be providing for her. But she had already been there for 5 1/2 hours, and listening to her story made me afraid that I would be in there for a similar time, and I worried about Andrew just waiting outside for some word. How long would it take? I couldn’t call or contact him in any way. At that point I didn’t care about the internship. I kept praying, “God, I don’t care if I’m deported, just don’t let me and Andrew be separated.”

Thankfully, after 2 1/2 hours of waiting the officer who had stopped me at immigration returned and said that she had talked to my internship director at Anthem Press, who explained to her what I’d be doing in my internship and satisfied her objections as to my entering the country. With a bright smile she helped me, at the same time frazzled with worry and intensely relieved, gather my luggage and head out of the airport. Andrew was waiting for me. Again, thank God he was there. I’ve never been so happy to run into his arms.

I don’t know if my friend was ever reunited with her fiance, but I truly hope so.


Filed under Travel