I was approached this past week with something that looked great at first but turned out to be a major scam with the potential to take advantage of many artists. Thankfully my brother who is a photographer knew all about this and warned me before things progressed too far – but other artists need to be aware.Â It goes like this:
A man emailed me, (the letters always seem to open with “Good Day” and then they introduce themselves) and said he had seen my art and was interested in purchasing a particular piece, if it isÂ still available.Â He said he is relocating to the UK for business immediately (creating a sense of urgency for speedy service), and that he has his own shipper ready to take care of that end of things for him includingÂ insurance.
I initially assumed this was legitimate, and wrote back to tell him that the piece was available either as an original or a giclee, and described pricing and all other pertinant info.Â He informed me that he would like the giclee, to consider it purchased, and that he would be sending out a cashiers check immediately with an overdraftÂ that would cover my piece as well as the shipper.
I was instructed to deposit the check, and then pay the shipper for him at that time.Â I wrote back to say that I preferred that he send two checks, and IÂ would be happy to give one to the shipper upon pickup, and that I would need a receipt for the shipping so I know the total and the company info.Â He replied that he was sending only one check as this was easier for him and that IÂ shouldÂ just payÂ the shipper out of that.
Red flags for me:
With each email I asked politely for his contact info and address so I could keep it for my records, and also I inquired how he found my site.Â He never gave me this info.Â Finally he gave me an address in North Carolina (hm…he is instantly relocating to the UK so this is useless).
Also, who would tell a business person how to conduct their business?Â If I ask for two checks that should be no big deal,Â as it is still only one trip to the bank.Â Also, why can’t his own shipper just bill him?
I asked him if his shipper would be handling the packing, and said that I assume he is familiar with handling artwork, that I would not be responsible for the safe delivery of my piece once it left my studio, and to please confirm that he understood this. He never responded to this.
Well…thank God my brother warned me about this as he had seen the scam before. Here is how it works:
The assumption is that you will receive the check, deposit it and send out the goods and pay from your account to the “shipper” who will leave with your money and art.Â The check will ultimately never clear, or bounce or something and you are out the money and art.Â (I have shipped art from LAÂ to DC andÂ it was $500. for one largeÂ canvas…imagine the cost to the UK!)
Well,Â I have run a business for too long, and was not planning to process any order or release any goods until the check cleared in my account, but I still felt that this might come back to bite me.
Finally, I emailed the man back, saying that I was not comfortable with the arrangement, and that he would need to send two checks or pay the shipper directly or I would not proceed.Â He wrote me back that it was too late…he had already sent the check and so we would need to proceed as planned.Â He also said (I guess because he knew I was suspicious) that he heard about me through “a friend”Â (hm…what friend?? This did not do the trick).
My final email stated that I would simply send the check back to the address he gave me in North Carolina when I received it, and that I was sorry for any inconvenience. I have not heard back.
It seems that there are many variations on this scam, but all have a similar phrasing and all involve an overdraft of some sort to be paid to a third party from the person targeted.
My brother now responds to these saying he does not do bookings by email, and to call his studio to make arrangements (which seems to end it right there).
So – be careful. There are many scams targeted at parting enthusiastic artists from their art and their cash. Don’t let your excitement over a potential sale overshadow your common sense!