A reader said “I received an e-mail from a buyer asking to purchase one of the paintings on my website. He sent me what looked like a cashiers check to pay for the painting and the shipping and asked that I send a payment to the shipper ASAP because he had scheduled a pick up. I went to the bank first to make sure the check was good. After several days of investigating they told me it was fake. In the meantime the buyer was pressuring me to pay the shipper or he’d cancel the sale. I know artists who have been taken in by this.”
Anyone else have experiences like this?
This one is a variation of the old email scam. To be helpful, I will provide names & email addresses. Here’s the ‘typical’ email I received:
My name is James Richard. I found your profile on the internet. I am interested in purchasing an artwork piece from you for my new gallery in Munich Germany, they are too beautiful to let go, I am also interested in them for the decoration of my new residence in Georgenborn, Schlangenbad Germany. Would appreciate if you can send me few pictures of the works you have available for sale so that I can make an easy choice of mine. Better still, send me a web link where I can have a view of your recent works. (His email address is: freemysoul firstname.lastname@example.org)
The scam tip-offs are:
He found my profile on the internet.
He does not mention a specific artwork.
The email does not come from my website.
He’s way out of town, in Germany.
I play along with some of these because there’s a slight chance that it’s a legitimate request. So I emailed him links to my website. Here’s his reply:
[He found two works he liked & mentioned them by title, so he actually did see the artworks at this point.]
Can I please have detailed information about these works, its availability and prices? As soon as we reach a concrete agreement on pricing, I can instruct my p.a to process a cashiers check/personal check to you for the payment of the work so that my mover can have them picked up along with my properties that are to be moved to Georgenborn Schlangenbad.
The scam tip-offs here are:
The use of a cashier’s check.
Having a mover pick up the artworks.
I went ahead & quoted him prices and mentioned I use PayPal only and would ship direct to him.
….and I never heard from the guy again.
This is a Very Typical scam. Beware the tip-offs when they don’t mention an artwork initially, the ‘cashier’s’ check and having a third party for pick-up & delivery.
It’s a common scam, beware!
After a chain of never-quite-believable get to know you emails, the writer (scammer) stated their interest in making a purchase of $21,000 in the email reproduced below. Before forwarding it on to my cousin, who had asked me to act an intermediary and was now in thrall with the prospective sale, I consulted a friend who directed me to this message chain. Thank you all for contributing your experiences. Honored to add ours:
Dear Jim ,
Thanks for the message, I must tell you I intend to give my wife a
surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece (“all 20 sculptures”) of
$21,000.00 . If you’d like to know, I’m relocating to the Philippines soon
and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. So I’m trying to
gather some good stuff to make this event a surprise. As regarding
payment, I would like to inform you, that my wife handles the family
credit card and paypal Bank transaction. So i would authorize a
check to you for the payment as soon as i have your full name and
contact address (preferably for FedEx delivery no P.O box). Also, as
soon as you receive the check and it clears your bank, my shipping
agent who is also moving my personal effect will contact you to
arrange shipping/pick up of the piece from you (this is to avoid my
wife receiving it, if been shipped directly to my address which would
ruin the surprise for this event). You both have to sign a proof of
pick up at the most.
I would have handled this much differently if I’d been at home but i
am actually going offshore and won’t be back for another couple of
weeks, and do not have access to a lot of cash over here to expedite
this transaction… trying to kill two birds with a stone. 🙂
Have a Positive Day!
PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your cell phone no. so
i can try and call you later as the phones may be working better when
this storm passes through.
For the initial contact I received an e-mail such as:
My name is James Levine from Brownsville TX. I was looking for some artwork online and i found your contact while searching. I will like to purchase some of your work for my wife as a surprise gift for our 20th anniversary.Please kindly send pics and prices of some of your art which are ready for immediate sale within price range $500- $5000, i could be flexible with price. So i will hope to hear a lot more about any available piece in your inventory ready for immediate sale.
After several e-mails back and forth the piece was sold and they sent a check. Fortunately I waited until the check was cleared … but the bank offered me 400 in cash before anything as it was a cashiers check. It was almost twice the amount of the artwork 8900 Euros and I was instructed to send the rest of the money in cash with the shipping agent. But the check was false…
A quick follow up to my comment I posted 5 minutes ago. I liken galleries to snakes. You have your docile, harmless garden snakes and then you have pit vipers. I could tell you stories about art dealers that would make your hair curl. Even good galleries, when pressed, can be awfully snaky. Use your intuition and contact other artists that the gallery represents and hope for the best. About 12 years ago I had a show with Doug Macon Gallery in Atlanta. He sold a piece for $45,000 and never paid me. He told me over the phone that hiring an attorney would be a waste of money. He was right and I learned suing someone and then collecting on the judgment are two different things. The piece now is in the lobby of The Ritz Carlton Atlanta. The dealer fled to Florida where the bankruptcy laws are quite lenient. I contacted the Atlanta district attorney’s office and they refused to take action on the case. So what is the difference between what this dealer did and coming into my house in the middle of the night with a shotgun?
I was contacted by a fellow named Daniel Smith who somehow had come across my website. He wanted to buy one of my paintings for his wife’s birthday somewhere in SE Asia. He chose a painting and I gave him a price and he said he would send a cashiers’ cheque to include the price of the painting plus an additional $5,000 which he wanted me to pay back to his ‘shipping agent’ here in the States. He was very persistent and followed up on my emails immediately. I took the cheque to my bank – Wells Fargo – and the associate took one look at it and said it was a fake and that if I’d deposited it, it would have taken about 10 days to bounce and I’d be out of $5,000 and that if he accepted the bogus cheque he, or any teller for that matter could have been fired.
Recently I was approached again, another unsolicited enquiry by a woman named Kathryn Edwards which was obviously another scammer. I’ve been in the gallery system for over 25 years and it is a love/hate relationship but at least, for the most part, they protect me from this type of theft.
I receive these emails several times a year. They are all variations of : laptop, wife looking at website, surprise, moving and will ship painting with sports car etc.
I also got a follow up phone call for one, and the caller may have been the “Nigerian prince”.
Sounds like an email I received. He wanted art for his wife’s birthday. Asked for prices. Then he mentioned the need to pay by cashiers check so she wouldn’t see the bill … what a scam …I was so angry that I had wasted time replying to the first email regarding prices. His brother in law is probably a Nigerian prince.
i’m getting emails from a “prospective buyer” that looks suspicious to me. i asked who they were? and other questions about their collection and my work. all i’ve gotten from them is that they are “Bally Technologies, inc.” i’m not going to try for a deal because it’s clear they’re a scam.
Yes, this happened. The emails were well written from Linda Rudy. The address was to Miami Shores, FL. The cashiers check from PNC Bank had security elements and was sent by USPS priority mail. I was scammed. My bank and PNC Bank said that they would not have been able to identify the check as a fraud. My bank sent a letter that the check had “errors” about 10 days after the online deposit. The police reported that a check can clear then can be rejected later. The banks and the USPS did not do a follow up with the reports filed. The police took a report and were difficult to reach.
Same with me. I got nailed the second time with fake checks. Others mentioned poor English, cashier’s checks, private pick ups, trying to hurry me. Sounds exactly the same. The first time, it was so obvious it was a scam, I didn’t go along with it. The second scammer was much more clever. It’s sad how many of them prey on virtually unknown artists hoping they’ll get excited about having a rich patron.
This was the first scam I was faced with. I became suspicious that someone wanted three or five of my paintings and I am a virtually unknown artist. I put the first sentence of the scam letter online and found the same letter had been sent to many others. Now I am suspicious with poor English, cashier’s checks, private pick ups, trying to rush me. I usually write back and say that I don’t participate in scams.
I get these e-mails regularly. The tip off was ” They saw my work on my website and want to know how to buy it along with the long winded explanation about hoe they are moving and blah, blah, blah. My response is always. “I don’t accept checks as payment and if you saw my web site you know how to buy it. I never use a “Private carrier” but use USPS, FedEx, or UPS. That usually makes them go away.
I had a similar experience about a year ago. I received an email from a woman wanting to buy three pieces that she had seen on my web site. She referred to them by name, so I belive she had seen them on my site. I told her one of the pieced had been sold but the other two are available. We agreed on a price and she indicated she would send payment. I waited and received nothing so I forgot about it. A month later she contacted me again and gave an excuse for not sending the payment. She said her husband in a different location would be sending a check. A couple of weeks later I received a check for about $1500 (I think in that range) more than the price we agreed on. She emailed and asked if I got the check. I told her the check was for the wrong amount. She said to send her a check for the excess amount and ship the artwork to her. I was suspicious from day one about the purchase. The emails sounded like they were written by someone not fluent in the English language although the name was not a foreign one and the address was in a small town in Iowa I think. I asked friends about this deal and they said it sounded phony so I decided to take the check to my bank, have someone look at it, and told them the story. They said this sounded like a scam and the check would most likely bounce. They told me to get the information together and send it to the FBI. I went to the FBI on line and discovered that this is a known scam and I gave them my info. I emailed the lady back and told her that my bank would not cash the check and I would not ship the artwork until I received a check for the proper amount. I never heard from her again.
I had someone contact me about buying a $10,000 painting and they FedEx’d me a check and I took it to the bank. I explained to them this was not a client I knew and I wanted to know if the check was good?
The buyer was on an FBI watchlist for passing counterfeit checks and the manager showed me how the information had been washed down and re-entered. It was a very good forgery and I had to fill in some paperwork for the bank and FBI
In 33 years as a professional artist I have not allowed a painting out of my hands until the money has cleared my bank. Commissions are 50% down and non refundable and clients have to sign acknowledging that. When a work is sold clients are given a list of art packers/shippers from local auction houses. They arrange and pay for the shipping.
I do all of this because the painter I apprenticed with for 4 years had pretty much experienced every scam from galleries and clients in his long career. Even learning from his experience I’m sad to say I’ve still had some hits from dishonest galleries.
This happened to me several times, but it never got as far as the money. I had a feeling it was a scam so just to make sure I asked a few questions, like: where did you see my artwork? What do you like most about it?
They won’t answer personal questions and will stop contacting you.