In the ongoing series of blog posts stolen blatantly from friends, I have (with permission) borrowed this from Maria Arango's blog www.1000woodcuts.com. As you read this, please remember the old adage...if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. As I mentioned to Maria when asking for permission to steal her words, "I hate to see artists scammed - almost as much as I hate to see art supply companies scammed".
This page is for letting artists know of various popular scams that are out there. Once you begin to get online, whether through a website or blog, you will begin to get "solicited" either through email or phone! Scammers are clever and always sound professional, often will have websites to back up their claims.
These are the most popular and come with variations but the basic elements are usually all there.
Purchase Offer Scam
The Purchase Offer scam is the simplest of all and it ALWAYS involves that the artist receive more money than the artworks are worth and the transfer of excess money from the artist to the scammer. Rule of thumb, always double check names of galleries or agents using Google and/or phone listings.
The artist receives an email with commonly a very short offer to purchase several works of art, usually from someone from out of your country (but not always). The artworks are indicated by name and the email requests a total "without shipping". The seemingly very professional collector or gallery or person who is newly remodeling their home offers to pay with a money order.
Often the first email ends there and you simply submit your total.
Next will come an email that will indicate that you will receive the money order as soon as you give your address and the "shipping company" will contact you to make arrangements to ship the artworks. Somewhere in the email it is hinted or said outright that the money order will be for your artworks plus shipping and your help is needed to arrange the payment to the shipping company, usually but not always by cashier's check or money gram or western union transfer. Once this transfer happens the shipping company will pick up the works.
You receive a fake money order which will initially clear your bank. Your very sound money is transferred to a non-existent shipping company (the scammer) and you are out money. The shipping company never shows up to pick up the works, of course.
Red Flags for Spotting the Scam
-Emails are usually from a free email account (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.).
-Scammer refuses to purchase through your website's shopping cart with a credit card like most customers; usually the works carefully chosen are not offered through the shopping cart or are older or larger works without purchase buttons.
-There is ALWAYS an excess of money that you will have to transfer back.
-The transfer is nearly always through wire-gram or Western Union.
Commission Offer Scam
This is simply a variation of the above, except the scammer offers you a lucrative commission. As a rule of thumb, ask for 50% down payment on any commission; if you suspect a scam, ask for the money drawn on a US Bank (you can then go to the issuing bank in person) or credit card payment. This usually suffices to flush them out.
Same as above except much more involved in the beginning. The scammer will lure the artist into actually starting the commission with many details and involved conversations. A photo or model may even be involved where the scammer sends the artist a digital file to be reproduced or model for the commissioned piece or pieces.
The plot evolves into the "excess" money scam outlined above. Either a shipping company is involved again or some sort of business agent that has to be paid. In some cases the variation involves an "art dealer" who is demanding the finder's fee for having found you to do the commission.
The Scam and Red Flags
Same as above but with the added flag that emails often are answered with long delays; often the scammer claims to be traveling all over the world looking for fine art for their collection.
An email outlines the need for a partner needed in your country in order to process payments received in your country. You are to receive the payments in the form of money orders and wire money to your "partner" less your commission for processing.
A variation of this email:
My name is xxxxxxx, I am an artist, I live in xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, with my two kids, I have been doing artwork since I was a small child That gives me about 23 years of experience I majored in art in high school and took a few college art courses Most of my work is done in either pencil or art brush mixed with color pencils.
I have recently added designing and creating artwork on the computer, I have been selling my art for the last 3 years and have had my work featured on trading cards, prints and in magazines, I have sold in galleries and to private collectors from all around the world. I am always facing serious difficulties when it comes to selling my art works to Americans, they are always offering to pay with MONEY ORDER , which is difficult for me to cash here in xxxxxxxxx
I am looking for a representative in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who will be working for me as a par time worker and i will be willing to pay 10% for every transaction, which wouldnt affect your present state of work, someone who would help me receive payments from my customers in the states, I mean someone that is responsible and reliable, because the cost of coming to the state and getting payments is very expensive, I am working on setting up a branch in the state, so for now i need a representative in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who will be handling the payment aspect for our company.These payments are in MONEY ORDERS and they would come to you in your name if you are willing to assist as a representative, so all you need do is cash the money order deduct your percentage and WESTERN UNION Charges then wire the rest back.
But the problem i have is trust, i have made arrangement with the FBI in Washington and they will get any body who tries to get away with my money, you are to receive the MONEY ORDERS which will be sent to you by the FEDEX or UPS from my business partners, which would come in form of a MONEY ORDER then you are to take it to your bank account to enable you cash it and send the money cashed for the MONEY ORDERS to me via WESTERN UNION OR MONEY GRAM.
N.b: All charges of the WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER will be deducted from the money, so you are rest assured that you wouldnt spend a dime out of your personal money.
if you are interested in helping me out i will like you to get back to me with the required informations in the format:
#Your full name..............................
#Your full home address................................
,#direct contact telephone number...............................
....and also your email address.
Thanks for your assistant and God bless,
As for my artworks,i am still creating my website as i have some new works yet to be updated,,i will get you updated once the
website is ready.
Pls endeavour to send your reply to xxxxxxxxxxx@yahooxxxxx
Thanks for your assistant and God bless,
Again, you receive fake money and dish out real money.
Red Flags for Spotting the Scam
-Email address free (Yahoo, Hotmail)
-Exchange of money your way is by Money Orders (easy to fake); exchange of money the other way always money-grams or wire-grams or Western Union
-Friendly tone and mention of FBI
-Website under construction (no way to double check on this artist, although some may have a rudimentary website set up for the purpose of the scam)
In re-reading Maria's post - I noticed something that has occurred to me in some of the e-mail scams that I've received over the years. Simply put, if there is frequent, excessive or bizarre capitalization, IT"S PROBABLY A SCAM!