Four days ago I received an offer that I could not refuse. Someone offered to buy 3-5 of my pieces with a budget of $1000 to $7000.
Great news, right? Wrong!
It was a scam and I want to tell you about it because no artist should be caught unawares of people like this – like I was.
So, “Hans David” from Ohio emailed me saying that he found his wife admiring the art on my website and he wanted to surprise her with a few of my pieces for their anniversary. He asked that I send him the names and pieces that were immediately available because the anniversary was coming up fast and he was moving, so he needed the pieces that he could get fast.
So far so good, right?
I sent him the price list and descriptions. He emailed back saying he would make out a check and have his movers send it via UPS or Fedex. HERE is where it got dicey… After some research and careful review of the situation, here are the red flags we all should look for, one by one.
1. He asked me to choose three to five pieces that were within his price range… FLAG! A real collector, or even a man trying to surprise his wife, will likely have SOME idea about which piece they would like. Art is fairly personal… anyone who says, “You pick which piece you want me to purchase” is someone that may need a second look.
2. He never actually named the pieces in the email… FLAG! He talked around the art he liked in vague terms, never naming any of the pieces. Scammers don’t take the time to learn about the particular pieces, they are after your money. They send thousands of emails, no time for specifics. How does this get THEM money? I’ll get into that shortly.
3. He needed the pieces, IMMEDIATELY… FLAG! He claimed that he had to have the pieces ASAP because the anniversary was coming soon, but also, because he would be leaving the country. This is another tactic. Move quickly and you have no time to think it through. It is also part of a common backstory – “I’m leaving the country….”
4. He was leaving the country in a few days and was having a service pack and move he and his family… FLAG! This is apparently a common part of the scammer backstory. By saying he is leaving the country, you won’t question why the pieces have to go somewhere out of the ordinary. Having a moving service also leads to fewer questions when some of the names don't quite jive.
5. MOST IMPORTANTLY – He wanted to mail a check to my personal residence –BRIGHT FLASHING RED LIGHT!!!
Never, Never, Never accept a check. While I had some misgivings about “Mr. Hans David” (who, by the way, was writing from Karin.Lotita@gmail.com) this was the clincher for me. I knew something was off and immediately sent an email telling the “interested buyer” that I only accept paypal and asked him to please tell me again which pieces he wanted to buy.
Emails stopped right then.
Telling him that I only accept paypal was the deterrent because he couldn't pull off his scam with through a secure payment site... so....
How does this turn into money in the con artist's pocket?
At the time I didn’t know, so I went digging, and here’s what I found. These websites have excellent information that was immediately helpful in picking out the scam.
10 Signs You Are Dealing With an Art Scammer
Stop Art Scams
How To Recognize an Art Scam - Agora Advice Blog - Agora Gallery
Essentially, these articles will tell you that this guy, "Hans", was textbook. It was as if he were following a script and these folks have it on hand.
Here’s how it works: Con artists (I am LOATHE to call them artists, btw) make money by sending you a bad check or money order for MORE than you were supposed to receive. Then they contact you asking that you send BACK the overage.
This may seem acceptable since you have deposited their check already, but NO. The check is no good. However, it will take several days or even weeks for your bank to realize this. By the time you know the money isn’t good you have already sent money to the “collector” to reimburse the overage… see?
Con Man says: “Oops! My assistant sent you a check for $8,000 when we settled on $7,000. Can you just send me a check for $1,000 and we call it even?”
Artist says: “I just deposited the check; I’ll send it over within the week.”
3 weeks later…
Artist’s bank says: “Yeah that $8,000 check you deposited… it bounced. So you owe this bounced check fee.” AND you are out $1,000 of YOUR hard earned money.
And there it is…
I have a very healthy b.s. detector and more than my fair share of skepticism – BUT I have to say I was almost so excited to sell my work that I WANTED to believe his story. As any "starving artist" would. And THAT is what these people prey upon.
Your art is a piece of you. When someone tells you they are smitten with it, it feels like being asked to Prom by your crush.
Don’t let the warm fuzzy feelings fool you.
Be cautious. Ask questions. Trust your gut.