Thursday, April 29, 2010

A scam that targets artists

I heard from a friend today that he received an inquiry over the internet from someone who wanted to buy one of his paintings. I hope it was for real, but I did take the time to warn him against a common scam. Perhaps you already know about it, but in case you don't, here's the deal.

There is a scam that targets artists and any one else who markets online. What usually happens is that you receive an e-mail, often in stilted English, that says something like " I have seen you paintings on the line, and I am most serious to buy many.


They often want to send you a cashiers check as they are foreign or moving. They ask to overpay you for one reason or another, often shipping, and you are to deposit the check, send them the paintings and the balance left over from the cashiers check after what ever arrangements you have made. In short you are to take a cashiers check, let it clear and mail them money. What most people don't know is that a bogus check can clear your bank and then be rescinded.

Many artists are so delighted to receive the sale that they comply. What happens next, is the bank contacts you in a week or two to explain that although the cashiers check appeared fine and they have posted it "cleared" to your account, it was a fake and bounced. The check was a fraud. You are out the balance that you sent to the customer and perhaps a painting or two as well.

The easiest way to avoid this is to set up a paypal account and take the payment through that. If the client won't do that, walk away. No matter what the deal is don't do business with anyone in Nigeria. If that seems unfair to you go ahead, but I warned you.


Gregory Becker said...

LOL way to illustrate your point. I guess all those torture devices are designed to show how you feel once you've been had.

willek said...

I was half duped in this scam. I was taken in because they were using a credit card. Which I thought was safe. I caught it when they wanted to pay more and asked for change from the overpayment.

Quaint pictures.

Robert J. Simone said...

They contacted me a couple of years ago. They were pretending to be a wealthy woman from England. I suspected it was bogus but I played along. They sent a Bank of America cashier's check for $3800 for a $1,000 painting and asked if I would reimburse any overages. I took it to my local Bank of America branch and they immediately identified it as bogus. They persisted in contacting me a couple of times after that but gave up when I did not reply.

Barbara Carr said...

Those pics are what you want to happen to the other person if they've scammed you successfully!
And I thought a platypus was the most unusual thing I'd ever see on a blog......

Barbara Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I've always been sort of disappointed that I've never gotten one of these scams, although several friends have.
What? Does my art not rank?
sheesh.. a gal works hard and can't even get a scammer to pay attention these days....

Todd Bonita said...

i've received maybe fifty of these over the last three years. Most I just delete, some I have egged on by carrying on outlandish conversations where I keep pretending I'm close to closing the deal and some I simply snap and reply with a volley of vulgarities. The man who I want to be should really err on the side of simply deleting but I'm working on my character. Until then, *@#%^ 'em.

billspaintingmn said...

It's tuff enough doing buisness with the locals, The art store should sell thumb screws as a point of purchase item!
I've had to get 'tuff' only once,
a local big shot thought he could
take me on~ Ha!
Some of the BIG guys are not to be trusted either!

Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

Thanks for the reminder, Stape. This scam has been around quite a while and though they change the locales, etc, I am sure that many artists are duped into accepting their checks.
Taking from artists is like stealing Grandma's purse- it just isn't nice!

Unknown said...

Why is this stuff always out of Nigeria?

Sharon Weaver said...

I have heard of these and one of my friends received this "great" offer. Luckily didn't do it.
On another note. Was wondering about all the great images you use, especially from ARC. What is the deal? Do I need permission and does it cost anything?

Carol Nelson said...

My online gallery,, has a members only forum where we all talk about these scams.
The scammers will often send the same broken English email to several artists. Another sign of a scam is that they don't name a painting they're interested in and they want to know if it's available even though this information is posted.

jeff said...

This type of scam is an old one.
It's an old confidence trick that plays on your gullibility.

Why anyone would even deal with an unknown person on the end any email address is beyond me. Anyone asking for anything is a scam artist.

The old rule of if it's to good to be true, it's not applies.

For those of you who play along with these scams a word if caution if you are clicking on these strange e-mails you could also be inviting Trojan Horses onto your computer and unwittingly be opening up your hard drive to thieves.

Not saying this is happening but you never know. Nigeria and Eastern Europe are where all these online thieves live. I never open any e-mails that are not from people I know. That includes the adds I get from sites such as Jerry's Artorama.

Dot Courson said...
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Dot Courson said...

Had that experience with the scam also and did not respond to it.

But later I was contacted by an extremely nice and trustworthy FB friend from a European country - to buy a painting that had already gone to my gallery and guess what? Of course- she bought it! So not all contacts form "foreign" countries are scams...

MCG said...

I think it might be interesting to try this:
1. Tell them how flattered and happy you are to receive their request! Tell them you want to do this for certain, but you are very low on cash so could they please just also include $5.00 - $10.00 in US currency along with the cashiers check so you can afford enough gas to cover your expense to the nearest bank, etc. and you will reimburse them that back along with the overage amount, and even throw in an extra painting.
2. If they take the bait, keep the cash and Mail them a painting of the Brooklyn Bridge, nothing more.
3. Move.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

I have gotten a few of these. The first time it seems iffy and I googled the address in the email and it came up on someones blog discussing this as a scam. I figured but I was excited to have maybe made a sale.
I decided to waste the scammers time, and I gave them prices about 1000 times higher than my actual price. They quickly replied and said the price was fine, "please let me know where to send the money for the $350,000 5x7 sketch".
I tried to get them to write a few paragraphs about why they liked the work for my personal use, but that ended the contact.
There is a thing online called Scambaiters, where people get these scammers to jump through amazing and sometimes hilarious hoops. I have seen where they have gotten people to carve things and mail them, to get tattoos, to join a fake religions, and send handwritten copies of harry potter.
If you want to read some, check out the archive.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I LOVE my set of thumbscrews.

Stapleton Kearns said...

More about the quaint pictures to come.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Let that be a lesson to you!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think the lady giving birth to rabbits still comes in first.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Maybe you could disable your virus protection?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have heard of people playing games with them.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I got my thumbscrews next to the cash register at Home depot.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Its a broken world.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I dont know. The eastern Europeans and the Russians do it too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

If you ask ARC the might give you permission. They checked me out a little first.

Stapleton Kearns said...

They must use translation programs.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have done sales to e-mailers that I did not know. But I get a phone number and talk to them as step two.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Like I said above.But you must be cautious

Stapleton Kearns said...

There is actually a registry to which they can be reported. Although I don't know if it changes anything.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't know of I would want to reply. It makes them aware of you. I had no idea you got that kind of money!

Plein Air Gal said...

Something that should be noted - the scammers have gotten bit smarter and some of these e-mails now come from good solid names like "Eileen Kelly" - who says she's from Texas or somewhere else within the US. The real "tell" is the offer to pay by cashier's check and/or have their own shipper pick up the painting(s) at your studio.
Unfortunately, there really ARE people out there who contact an artist via his/her website for legitimate purchase - I've sold 2 paintings that way in the last year. But I did major research to make sure the e-mail was legitimate and in both cases was able to contact the potential buyers via means other than their original e-mails (much to their surprise!). It's a shame that we have to fear legitimate sales because the possibility of scam is far higher than the possibility of real!

Diane Hutchinson said...

I had this happen to me, too, but I caught on after the check arrived overnight from UPS. I took it to the bank and they recognized it as phoney immediately...