This post was originally posted in January of 2008 and I feel it needs an update:
I was recently contacted by a person who claimed to have a client interested in purchasing one of my paintings. He implied that he was an art broker. We negotiated price and at first I was excited that someone from London would own one of my paintings. When we got to payment I became suspicious. He said his client would send a cashiers check for the painting, HIS fee and the shipping costs. The shipping was to be handled by the courier branch of his shipping company in the USA.
I did some research and found information on this scam.
Many artists I know are aware of this type of scam but it recently came up again in conversation. Since this scam is still going strong I thought I’d share some of the variations on this scam. I’ve been contacted at least 5 times for my art and at least once a week for my web design work.
Here are other ways this scam works:
1. If you sell original art example. You’ll receive an email from a doctor who claims he was watching his wife look at many pages on your website but she seems to particularly love this one painting. Their anniversary (substitute her birthday) is coming up and he wishes to surprise her with this gift. How exciting, right! Next he explains that they are moving to Paris (or some other far away place with expensive shipping) next week and he will arrange the shipping. He will pay you for the painting plus the shipping and then arrange for the shipper to pick up the painting. You have to pay the shipper when he picks up the painting. He assures you he is paying with a bank certified check so there is no problem with the payment. But in the end the bank calls you weeks later to let you know that was not a good check. So now you’ve lost the amount of the shipping and you no longer have the painting in your inventory.
2. If you sell creative services, example a web site. You’ll receive an email from someone looking to hire you to build a web site. In the email they will ask if you accept credit cards. After you respond you will receive another email explaining that they are deaf and can not talk on the phone. All communication will be through email or text. This is probably because they live in Kenya and they don’t want you to hear their accent. After you agree to that and send your proposal for the work they will then inform you they have hired someone to write the content and they will include that fee in your payment and could you please then pay that person for their services. This is a more obvious scam. Sometimes it’s not a copywriter they are hiring but an SEO expert to help with the web site optimization. This scam works with any creative services: brochure design, logo design, etc. I get this type of email weekly.
Another thing that is common in both cases is the bad grammar and weird punctuation. Always discuss any potential purchases with your art friends. Get their opinion on the email. We are a target because it’s so hard to sell our art that when someone shows interest we lose perspective.