Ghouls of the Art World: Scammers

There are a lot of things to watch out for while conducting business over the Internet. Although everyone is a target, artists are targeted with specific types of tactics. (Lucky world, scammers are customizing their methods!) Although the prospect of a sale can be enticing and exciting, please be on the lookout.

A few things to watch out for are:

  • Out of the ordinary shipping requests
  • Mentioning the use of shipping companies or agents
  • Offering to send more money than the amount due and then asking you to somehow send back the difference (scammers prefer Western Union, because it is untraceable once the wire transfer is picked up)
  • Emails with several misspellings, grammatical and formatting issues
  • Never mentioning specifically which pieces of yours they are interested in
  • An overeagerness to make things easy for you
  • The buyer being in a extreme hurry to close the deal or not wanting to give you enough time to make sure the funds have cleared
  • Just because the buyer is willing to pay by credit card doesn't mean it isn't a scam or the funds are yours for good! Scammers use stolen credit card information, which will result in a chargeback once the real person discovers their information has been stolen

    A great way to vet a purchase inquiry to ensure it is a serious one is to ask the interested party a series of questions. While responding to the inquiry to thank them for their interest, ask specific questions, such as:

    • What do they think of the work they are asking about?
    • What is their interest in collecting artwork such as yours? (Contemporary, Environmental...customize to your field of expertise)
    • And if it might seem legitimate but you are still a bit unsure, begin a fresh email to the potential buyer, apologize for 'losing' their other email and ask them again which pieces they were interested in

    Reluctance on the buyer's part to answer any of the above should raise some red flags for you.

      You can also use an online tool to trace the IP address of the email address the email is from. If it is from a location that is very different from where the buyer is saying they are from, this could be an indication that it is a scam.

      Money orders can also be couterfeited, and remember that domestic U.S. Postal Service money orders cannot exceed $1,000.00 (one thousand dollars) in value. If you have any doubts, you can always call the U.S. Post Office Money Order Verification System at 1-866-459-7822 to verify the authenticity of any U.S. Postal money order.

      Check out this list of tips and commonly used scammer names. The FBI also has a lot of general fraud information as well. And, if you come across any scams yourself, please help get the word out!