Internet Art Scams – Artists, Don’t Get Caught!
Recently, I received an email from a stranger, out of the country, offering to purchase a number of my paintings. First Red Flag! Who buys one painting let alone five from an unknown artist, sight unseen, off a website. It seemed too good to be true and ultimately it was… The details of my experience are personal but I felt I needed to share my story to warn other artists.
I wrote back to the ‘buyer’ asking why they wanted my work and how they found me. It’s not as if I’m a world-famous artist! She said she found me through a tourism site in our area (plausible) and loved my work; she connected with them. All creative types hope for this kind of feedback on their work. The woman (might have been a man – who knows?) had all the right words to ease my concerns.
When she wanted to use her own shipping company and not a well-known one like UPS or FEDEX, I questioned her. Second Red Flag! She explained that she had used them before and trusted them to handle the paintings for her.
I checked out the shipper’s website. It was not very sophisticated but appeared to have a legitimate address and contact information. I even Google mapped the shipper’s address, a row house in England – not a commercial building. Third Red Flag! The shipping company offered me what could have been a legitimate reason for their location. They were moving their warehouse and using the residential address to continue to conduct their business.
The shipper provided a quote for packaging, shipping and insurance and requested payment by wire transfer, not credit card, addressed to an individual, not a company. Fourth Red Flag!
Then the buyer wanted to add another 3 paintings to her order. Fifth Red Flag! I woke up and Googled her address. It was non-existent. When I questioned her, she offered the excuse that she lived in a remote area which was another reason for using her shipper. That was the nail in her coffin. The address she had provided was in the middle of a the capital city of a European country.
During the last few stages of this drama, I did an internet search for ART SCAMS and found a blog by Artist, Kathleen McMahon called Stop Art Scams. In the comments from other artists, I found, both the name of my buyer and the shipper. They had all received similar email correspondence. I recommend you take a look at the blog.
To make the initial purchase, the buyer used a credit card which I now believe to be stolen.
When I realized I had been the victim of a scam, I reported the incident to the local Ontario Provincial Police detachment and the RCMP Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre; they found the email address for the shipper in their files.
I’m left a little embarrassed for not trusting my gut instinct and all the red flags! I believed I had asked all the right questions and protected myself and never expected to fall for such a scheme. How wrong I was!
Scammers may actually be near or far, any gender, any nationality, and relish the challenge of fooling a questioning, sophisticated, intelligent, selling artist.
What you can do
- Please protect yourself and your work. Only sell to people you have met and who have seen your work.
- Get full payment is advance of shipping (ensure all transactions have cleared your bank).
- Arrange your own shipping with a well-known and reliable company.
- If your buyer asks for any special concessions that seem odd, question them.
- If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
The police confirmed my experience reflected a common pattern followed by scammers; the exact details may differ. Although these criminals are rarely tracked down and caught, let alone prosecuted for their crimes, we need to report all fraud incidents to the authorities. The more information they have, the better chance of reducing and stopping these crimes.
To report fraud:
In Canada: the provincial police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501
In USA: StopFraud.gov
© Wendie Donabie www.wendiedonabie.com