Wednesday, 26 September 2012

It's all a scam

Ok, I know, its been a while.  I'll be honest, I just haven't been in the mood.  I must also be honest and say that I hate it when I get into that funk.  You know the one?  The one where you just couldn't be arsed with anything?  Well, ever since my holiday I came back with no inclination to write anything at all.  In fact, its been a pain in the arse to even respond to text messages - yeah, as bad as that - and I am constantly aware of this but again the 'oh I couldn't be arsed' feeling has been just too overwhelming.  Not cool I know, but there you have it.

But I have to tell you, its not all my fault.  There has been other things going on too, and I wanted to tell you about it.



For some of you who know me, you know that I have been trying to obtain my UK citizenship?  Well, this has turned out to be one of those horrible drama's where you wonder how this could happen to you.  Towards the end of last year I did some internet surfing to find someone who would assist me in this process.  I am not a newbie to the whole red tape process of trying to obtain legal documentation and in my infinite wisdom thought I would pay for the services of an institution that does this for a living.  So after much surfing I found a website called UK Visa and Immigration (please..click on that link!) and had a quick internet chat with a so-called advisor who promptly called me back (oh the service was so fast at first!) and after discussing my needs and my financial situation he quoted me the princely sum of £1250.00 for citizenship x 3.  What they promised to do is to guide me through the whole process, process my application on my behalf and to ensure that I had all the documentation that the Home Office would need and thereby ensure a pain-free process.  Of course this fee they were charging did not include the Home Office fee (which was another rather hefty amount for three of us) but I was willing to pay the price if it meant I didn't have to do everything my 'clueless' self and practically being guaranteed that it would be a smooth easy process.

I received a 'client care' letter, which included spelling errors with regards to our names and I pointed this out to them and this was amended.  They insisted I sign it and hand over the money promptly so they could begin the work on my behalf.  Of course, this is exactly what I did.

A few days later I received an email asking me to fill this and that form out and to send original passports/birth certificates/marriage certificate and other appropriate documents (most of these also originals) to them.  It took me a while to get this all together, mostly because I had to wait for my ex-husband to send me crucial permission for the children to take on UK Citizenship (which was a nightmare in itself) but a few months later, I was ready to send most of the documents to them and I called them to get a bit more advice.

This is where the problems started and right here, my little red flag should have gone up.  Well, if I am honest, it did...a little, but I didn't really want to deal or admit to myself that something wasn't quite right, so I ignored any doubts that were starting to whisper in my brain.  I would call and call and the phone would just ring.  Every now and then I would get lucky and someone would answer but my 'Case Worker' was always busy and would have to return my call.  When she finally did, she advised me to use an email address, stating that that was the best way to get hold of her.  I started to use that and would have to email a few times before I finally got a reply.  Anyway, regardless, I sent my original documents off to Birmingham where they were based and had to follow that up with a few emails and calls just to confirm that they had received them.
One time that I phoned and it was answered by an advisor who again claimed that my 'Case Worker' was busy, told me that my case had been closed when I enquired if they could check that my documents had got there.  Naturally I freaked out and frantically emailed about this unfortunate development to get a reply stating that it was an internal error and not to worry, that they were still working on my case and that the documents had arrived. They also informed me that they had moved offices and to send any outstanding documents to the new address.  (I was still waiting for that ever important letter from my ex that I needed to send to them).

When I received that I promptly posted to the new address and that, is where it all went dead.

Have you ever phoned a company where the voicemail that greets you sends you into a loop?  Where, no matter what button you press you cannot speak to a living soul?  I checked the website and for some reason all the telephone numbers they used to have listed on it had disappeared.  The 'click here to talk to a live advisor' button had also disappeared to be replaced with 'click here to start your UK Visa Assessment' button.  Lucky for me, during my efforts over to previous weeks to get hold of them, I had written every number down, and I rang each one.  Not so lucky though, each number either rang dead or I got that same pointless voicemail.
'Press 2 if you wish to talk to someone in accounts or if you are calling to enquire as the status of your visa application, please dial XXX XXXXXX 'which as far as I could make out was the UK Border Agency office.  Pointless really when you don't even know if your application has been passed onto them yet, nor what your reference number is.  Pressing option 2 just takes you back to that same irritating voicemail.

By now, I was somewhat pissed off.  I wrote them one email after another, all of them ending with 'get back to me urgently'.  But there was nothing.

Even at this point though, I was in denial.  I did not want to admit that something was wrong.  I was making up all kinds of excuses in my head as to what could be the reason for this.  To admit that I had been scammed was just too much for me to do yet.  After a few days of constantly calling them and checking for an email response from them I finally got ugly.  I sent them one final email where I informed them that unless they contacted me urgently with the status on my application or fully refunded my money and returned my documents, I would be seeking legal advise and made other threats.  I copied my husband into this email and as he was on leave at the time and didn't have anything better to do, he went on the case.
Oh my god, this is when it all came out.

My husband uncovered so much information and pointed me to this site. (Yes, I should have spoken to him earlier I know) UK Immigration Barristers (click on it!) and I took one look at it and I knew.  The site was so similar to the old one I knew that the same template had been used.  He found out information regarding the so called director(s) of the company and found information that linked the two together.  Also, the names of all the previous companies they had traded under and had since dissolved to start over again and con more people out of their money.  The nightmare reviews he found (all so different from the positive ones they had on their website).  It turns out this was happening not just to me but to hundreds of people.  He found a page on facebook (since removed due to pressure from them to facebook) dedicated to showing these people for the scammers that they were.  And suddenly I was in touch with people who were in the same boat as me.

I was devastated.  I wanted to crawl under my desk and just lie there.  I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream.  I was lost and I didn't know what to do.  These people had my life's documents plus £1250.00 and they had done a runner with it.

We found their page on facebook 'UK Visa and Immigration' (since disappeared from facebook) and we started posting on it.  We weren't saying nice things and our comments were being promptly removed, as were other non-complimentary posts by other people.  We made screen copies of every one to prove that it had been there.  Once I had enough information I went to the Barristers site and clicked on the 'click here to talk to a live advisor' button (which has also now disappeared I've just noted) and Mike came online wondering how he could assist me.  I pasted a copy of my threatening email into the box and waited.  Mike took a while to read it and then profusely denied that they had anything to do with UK Visa and Immigration. I informed him that I had more than enough proof that they were one and the same and that I was now going to the police.  Gave him a few lil titbits so he knew that I did have info and then I signed off.

About an hour later my mobile rang.  It was Ash Shadat from UK Visa and Immigration on the line, who was acting as if they were still trading and he is just ringing me to tell me that he would be sending my forms back as I my daughter now needed to do the 'Life in the UK' test as she had since turned 18.  Well, you can imagine how that conversation went.  I told him I wasn't interested in his stories, that I knew the truth and I wanted my money and my documents back or I would be going to the police.  He was very sorry about this and would return my documents to me the next day and refund my money to me in full by the end of the next week. By then though, it was too late. I had already gone to the police and reported him, along with all his other friends names and business addresses.

I did get my documents back two days later and I will be honest, the relief of holding them in my hands again made me want to forget everything that had happened.  I have as yet still not got my money back and its now two months later.  I doubt I ever will, but I have hope because its not just me.  I have met a number of people in the same position as me and we are all fighting.  Its tiring, so tiring and there is a part of me that just wants it all to go away, but then I read or hear about another person that has been scammed and it just riles me up again.

Two blogs like mine you should check out to get a different version.  One from a guy who actually worked there: UK Immigration Barristers Scam and Don't be taken by these scammers who was scammed like me but fought hard and got her money and documents back but is fighting still so others can know.
For reviews: UK visa and immigration and here.

I could go on and on, but I won't because there is just too much info out there I would be here all night.  I wish so much I had done my homework before I had  handed over my money but there you go.  Its done.  Now just to fight to get it back.  Mostly however, I hope someone that is thinking of using their services will happen across this page and be warned and will stay away.  If I can stop just one person from giving away their money to them then it was worth spending the last 2 hours writing all this down.

As for me now, I am still in my funk and I spend loads of time playing pointless games on facebook and elsewhere and watching TV.  Its pointless but its brain numbing and that's all I am up for lately.  I do however know myself and know that it will pass and I look forward to it when it does because it would be nice to blog again, tweet more and get back to that novel I haven't touched in weeks.

As for these scammers, justice will be done, one way or another.  Watch this space.

Bx


An Update (24 November 2012):

Whilst writing the above, myself and a few other people were involved in a BBC documentary in exposing these people.  I was not allowed to say anything about it due to the BBC wanting to keep it under wraps and not alert them to what was going on.  The show was 'Inside Out' and it was to be featured on the BBC West Midlands channel and aired on October 22nd 2012.  While I felt very positive at the time that this would make UK Visa and Immigration/UK Immigration Barristers accountable and would get the Police and other legal people involved, as far as my knowledge goes, nothing has really come of it.  Ash Shadat was approached and agreed to go on air and admitted that there was 'some issues'.  However, he denied that they were trying to scam anyone and blamed everyone but himself for the lack of service and said that they had not received any money from the 'merchants' via which people had paid.  Funny that, when I had received an email right after I paid thanking me for my payment, which they have received that day.  He went on to say that he would gladly pay people back out of his OWN POCKET if need be, yet still ignored my emails after the show and still hasn't offered to pay me back.  He never will.  He is a liar and his smooth slick words on the show only show how good he is at it.  Sadly too, none of the other 'Inside Out' show across the UK region picked it up so the only viewership the show got was the West Midlands.  This is not only a UK wide problem, people abroad too should be seeing this.  It effects people across the world!

In saying this, the experience of doing the show was fun and there were moments I felt like a movie star.  Especially when filming on London Bridge and having hundreds of people gather round and watch what we were doing whilst I had a camera in my face and had to pretend like that, nor all the people who were staring were there!  Fun times and certainly something I will remember forever, and can now happily cross off 'Act on a TV show (on location)' from my bucket list. The guys at the BBC (Jane. Stewart, Giles, Gary) are wonderful too and I am glad to have met them.  I understand that there is only so much you can fit into a 10 minute TV segment yet I am still sad that the pain and heartache that was felt by not only me, but by the other 'victims' that were on the show didn't really come through, nor that anything positive (in my understanding) has come from it.

As stated above,  I have still not received any money back from Ash Shadat, despite emailing him again after the TV show and calling him on his promise to refund everyone.  I did however, get my money refunded from my credit card institution a few weeks back 'pending further investigation' so I hope they take him to the cleaners.  I somehow doubt it though.  If you have had your money stolen from these scammers and paid via credit card, I suggest you try getting your money back from your card agency.  You may get lucky?  I know some people who were denied this, but I am one of the lucky ones I guess. 

I have to be honest though, I have lost faith in the police and the legal system.  It seems they are either not interested, or they just don't have the power to take criminals such as these down? 

I am still trying to process my citizenship application, I am filling out the documents myself, which isn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be, though it is a pain in the arse.  I will then be taking it to my local council, who offers the service to check it for you, to verify your documents and make copies of them and give them back to you so your originals to not have to go to the UKBA, which is handy if you need them for travel or something. Check the UKBA website to see if your local council offers this service.  Its not free (nothing it appears is) but its a damn side lot cheaper than the fees that these scammers charge.
I am just about done with that and hope to be going there next week, at which time, assuming all is OK, my application will go through and it will then be out of my hands.  Either way, I am so tired of all of this now and sometimes wish I hadn't bothered, but I guess, if this all goes well the end result will be worth it. It's taken a year to do this, 6 months of which I lost waiting for an agency who promised to make it easier for me and ultimately stole my money and put me through this nightmare.  I cannot stress enough how bad they are, and how I wish everyone would read this and not give them a penny.  As long as people are paying, they will keep taking.
 


24 comments:

Jane Isaac said...

Hi B,

What a nightmare. Some people would just give up when they'd been messed about so much (and I guess this is what the scammers hope for) but your dilligence paid off. So glad you got your docs back.

Menu and voicemail systems are one of my pet peeves - urrgh!

Hope you manage to pull out of the funk soon - great to see you back on the blog:)

Jx

Thomas said...

Hi Bernadette,

I'd like to thank you for having the conviction to actually put your story here. Many individuals who have suffered at the hands of "cowboys" in the industry remain silent, which can only let this kind of activity continue running.

Best regards,



T.

Bernadette Davies said...

Thank you Jane as always for your comment, it has been a nightmare! xx

Bernadette Davies said...

Thank you Thomas for your comment. I agree, the more people that speak out about them, the less they will be able to get away from it.
I already know of one person who has seen this, was currently speaking to them and has now since withdrawn. Thank goodness!

Anonymous said...

I too have had dealings with these scammers and despite a long fight, i'm still no closer to resolution. On another note, by linking to them from your blog post you're actually helping their site to rank in search engines, thus bringing thgem more traffic and more customers - if you're going to link to them perhaps use anchor text (link text) like "UK visa and immigration scammers" and add rel=nofollow" to the link. Best of luck with your efforts to get you money back - these people really have no idea how their scams are ruining people's lives.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone received a refund from Ash Shadat?
Daniel Waldron is on a fresh marketing campaign for UK Immigration Barristers:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/11/prweb10083099.htm
Please do NOT give up campaigning against this organisation and other related companies.

Anonymous said...

Taken from a report on workpermit.com
"The UK Visa and Immigration website is still online. We recommend you give it a wide berth."
The UK Immigration Barristers website is still online. We recommend you give it a miss. (dot com)
http://www.workpermit.com/news/2012-10-24/bbc-warns-people-against-using-two-uk-immigration-firms

RB2004 said...

I have only just come accross this, and unfortunately it was written long after we had our first dealings with them.

I was applying for a Fiance Visa, but due to the lack of my own personal financial evidence, was highly dependant on 3rd party support for my fiance application.

It was due to this, we felt we needed legal help and advice to ensure we succeeded first time.

After searching online, we came accross UK Immigration Barristers, probably was around March this year?

Hard not to miss them, they have a nice professional looking website, with lots of information giving the impression they are experienced and very successful.

So we called them, spoke to somebody british with an educated voice, he asked lots of questions about our situation etc which seemed professional so they could guage our situation... as above mentioned in previous post.. went on hold for a while "while he spoke to the legal team" they then agreed to take on the case and said that they wouldnt take on a case that couldnt succeed.

Paid £1500, which they said would be made up of £750 for Fiance Visa application, £750 for FLR application.

Next they setup online portal access, we agreed to the client care letter.. again seemed nothing out of the ordinary and professional enough.

Then they uploaded a list of required documents.

We uploaded all the required documents, and they locked them all in, no feedback at all.. so assumed all was fine with our evidence.

Once all complete, they then sent accross a professional looking cover letter which was about 14 pages long maybe? and talked about things like the European Convension on Human Rights and how if they did not approve the visa it would be breaching those rights.

Sent it all off.... in June before the rules changed then a week later British Embassy sent the documents and passport back to my Fiance, and said they had declined the visa.. on a few grounds..

Lack of proof for adequate accomodation, lack of a letters from my parents and uncle stating that their money would be available for maintenance use for my Fiance support in the UK and permission to use their financial documents as evidence.

All things which was not requested or picked up on as missing by Kings Court Chambers before submitting the application.

So then they charged us a further £750 to process the appeal.

We supplied a property inspection report, and the missing letters... they submitted the appeal for us in July.

Then we heard from the courts saying we would hear something next after January 6th.

It is now November, and the other day we finally heard back from the embassy that an ECM reviewed the application and overturned the descision.. and that she needs to submit her passport for further consideration and they will write to Tribunals service to say appeal has been withdrawn..We did this 2 days ago.

So looks like this time it turned out positive for us and she has her visa now.

But the £750 for the appeal would not of been necessary if they checked the evidence properly and picked up that we was missing letters.

Their excuse at the time of refusal was that they could have but then the application could have been refused on other grounds instead...

But I hated how there was no number to talk to anybody, everyting was done via the online portal, and when you asked hard questions they skipped around them or gave vague replies.

Unfortunately I had never heard of the OISC website previously, and reviews and comments like this didnt exist at the time we got involved with them initially so we was not to know better.

But it has cost us a lot of money, and no hope of getting it back again.

So now we are looking for another advisor to help us with our FLR after marriage.. as we fear refusal on it due to my financial situation and heavy reliance on 3rd party support.

Bernadette Davies said...

Dear RB2004
Thank you for sharing your story here, it is yet just another one to add to the many people who, like you have been taken for a ride and have had money stolen from them. I am so terribly sorry about that. I am glad your visa application did get sorted but it sucks at the cost you had to pay to get it. Did you pay for it via credit card? If so, if you can prove that you paid for a 'service you did not receive' you may be able to get it back from the credit card institution? I know some people that have done that and failed, but also some that have and have got their money back, so its worth a try.

While I was writing that post, I was also working with the BBC in doing a documentary regarding these scammers which aired October 22nd on Inside Out West Midlands. I'm sorry to say though, aside from highlighting what these people are what they do, I don't think much has come from it. I couldn't mention at the time of writing this about the documentary due to BBC asking me and the others involved to keep it quiet.
There are many blogs out there dedicated to exposing and bring these people down, you should post your story on all of them, the more people that do, the more chance there is that the police will finally do something about it, because they too appear uninterested.

I do appreciate the time you took to comment here and wish you the best of luck

Bx

Paul said...

Hi Thank you for this information. Just today I was contacted by this company after calling them yesterday about an inquiry to help sort out my 7 month overdue application with Border Security to extend a visa. I had a very convincing conversation with one of the people on the phones who said they could definitely help me and it would cost £350 all up. Well I decided to delay it and do a bit of research and that's how I found you. So I thank you again and wish all those dealing with these scammers the best of luck. I'm due to speak them again tomorrow so will decide on best to deal with them.

Cheers
Paul

Bernadette Davies said...

Hi Paul
I am so glad you found this blog. If I achieve nothing more than stopping you from wasting your money there, then my work here is done.

Do check out the links that I posted so you can read other stories of people that this has happened to.

Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comments

Bx

Anonymous said...

Hi Bernadette. I have now watched the video - thank you very much.

Ash Shadat should be a politician.

Bernadette Davies said...

You are very welcome . Glad to have finally got it to you.

Stu Platt said...

I would like to submit a complaint, to join the ones from numerous other people, against the company called www.ukimmigrationbarristers.com.
On 09/09/2013, I completed an online enquiry form to their website and shortly afterwards received a phone call in response, following which, I was passed to an individual called Meena who represented the firm, she then followed a procedure that I can only describe as exactly like that listed in numerous complaints revealed in subsequent internet searches, namely, being placed on hold, supposed consultation with a barrister at the premises, and then was assured that the firm could provide help and a solution to my initial enquiry, which was, professional assistance in obtaining a British Passport for my Polish civil partner.
I was given a case number 148755.
I was told the fee would be a total of £705, being made up of legal fees of £650, plus a further ‘home office’ fee of £55, payable at a later date, and I was asked to transfer £650 to their account, which I did by electronic bank transfer.
The account details I was given to transfer the money to are,
K Chambers. (20-07-74) 20140554
I note from my internet searches this seems to refer to Kings Chambers.
I was told I could cancel the transaction, less an admin fee, within 7 days.
The next day, being surprised not to have had any email acknowledgement from them of the proposed contract, or acknowledgement of their received fee, I became suspicious and started to search the internet beyond the immediate reviews, and discovered to my alarm they seemed to be a firm of known internet fraudsters.
I contacted them by phone and attempted to cancel the arrangement/contract, I was subjected to the usual procedure of being placed on hold, passed from one person to another etc., then was promised my cancellation would be passed on to their finance dept.’ who would issue a refund.
All subsequent phone calls and emails to this firm have been completely ignored, and of course I have not received any refund.
I am convinced that like many others, I am the victim of a sophisticated internet fraud, and have lost £650.
The website is extremely professional looking; gives the impression they are affiliated to a government body, and contains many glowing reviews that I now realise are bogus.
In addition the website receives high indication on a Google search coming up first on the search engine, this gives additional credence to it being a reputable company, which is simply not the case.
It’s a pity Google condone the inclusion of this known scam site and have apparently received complaints regarding this.
I realise that unfortunately I may never get any money back from these fraudsters, but am anxious to add my voice to those others who have been similarly ‘conned’ into parting with hard earned money, and who have also made a complaint against what is clearly a dishonest organisation operating a sophisticated and wide ranging scam, in the hope that they can be investigated, prosecuted and the organisation and website closed down.
My Name is Stuart Platt and my partner Mariusz Grzelik.

Bernadette Davies said...

Dear Stuart, I am astounded that these people are still trading, even more so, I am amazed that the powers that be continue to turn a blind eye when there are so many people, such as yourself who are still been made victims by these people. I'm not sure how much money you need to scam from people before you grab the attention of the police or similar organisation who could put an end to this. Apparently it's not been enough yet.
Did you look at the links I posted? There is a wealth of information on the first link UK Immigration Barristers Scam and I know of people who are still actively researching these fraudsters. Report what happened to you to action force and also talk to the police. Maybe your case will be the one that finally makes them pay attention, but don't expect too much.
And lastly, don't give up. Hound them, hound them everyday. Threaten them with legal action, threaten them with the press..and if you are able, do it. I've known of cases where they have relented just so you will go away. I think too that they are way too used to people just going away once they realise hey have been duped.
Finally, I'm terribly sorry this has also happened to you, but thank you for sharing your story here. Hopefully someone else will come here in the future and read your and my story and it will stop them from dealing with these thieves.
Good luck Stuart and also with your future application for the visa that you are trying to get.

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed they are still making money out of misery. The whole set-up seems to involve a large group of Legal, Marketing and IT people, seemingly led by Waseem Saddique who is wanted by the police but has skipped the country. Check out updated comments on http://ukvisaadvice.wordpress.com/ and please continue to spread the word.

Anonymous said...

Dear Stu

Unfortunately, under the Fraud Act 2006, the Police will not investigate this unless they receive a complaint from a bank.

You have the receiving bank details and your own bank details. Get in contact with the fraud departments of both your bank and the receiving bank. Point them to all the evidence on the internet about this scam.

Ian

Anonymous said...

Dear Stu

Do not confuse Kings Chambers and Kings Court Chambers. Kings Chambers is a highly reputable chambers. UKIB is linked with the less than reputable Kings Court Chambers.

Ian

J Ng - China said...

Hi, I too was conned by them for £1500 for my Tier 2 work visa. I hope others will learn from this blog. Great job!

Bernadette Davies said...

I'm sorry to hear this has also happened to you. The only problem with this blog, is that most people only find it after they realise something is wrong and in most cases have already being conned. As for those thieves, I can't believe they are still getting away with it.

Thank you for your comment and good luck to you

Anonymous said...

and still it goes on.....
http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/ombudsman-decision-data/ombudsman-decision-data.aspx

Click on ‘Immigration’ and it reveals quite a telling picture of upheld complaints against all of the existing barristers at Kings Court Chambers in 2013-2014. That is Tariq Rehman, Mohammed Asif Khan and Nigel Duncan Andrew Wray.

Anonymous said...

Hi B
Ito got scammed by this company you can read my blog on https://chrisespage.wordpress.com/
I have been trying for over a year to obtain a refund ,and put my case to the legal obudsman,bar council,action fraud,watchdog, trading standards,and my local MP.I went to the small claims court who found in my favour but was ignored by Mr Rehams company,I took further court action to have the company's bank account frozen unsuccessfully as the company moved accounts to a different bank,they always seemed one step ahead of me as a last resort I informed my MP who seems to have got things moving (see link) http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/downloads/documents/press_releases/1014-Public-interest-decision.pdf
I don't think I will ever get my money back I just want these crooks brought to justice

Magdalena Jakobczuk said...

i've paid Kings court chambers 3.000 and I still need an Immigration Lawyer or my fiance could be deported to Poland. I have no more money and just tears in my eyes.
after BBC show I was hoping that Immigration online is a different company and hat Kings court Chambers are going to help me ... now i see all these comments and I've realized I've been a scam victim

Anonymous said...

Kings Court Chambers abandones the premises they occupied in the CIBA Building, 146 Hagley Road, Birmingham on 30 April, 2015

Tariq Rehman and Ian Macdonald QC were both convicted of multiple sentences at a bart tribunal service hearing on 5 May, 2015.

No further action is being taken against Macdonald and Rehman's sentence has been deferred.

More details will be available tomorrow on the TBTAS website.