Anatomy of a Email Art Scam

If you have a website for your art, you’ve likely received an email that looks a lot like this:

Hello There,

My name is Pamela Mcallister from Georgia. I actually observed my husband has been viewing your website on my laptop and i guess he likes your piece of work. I’m also impressed and amazed to have seen your various works too, You are doing a great job. I would like to purchase ”CAROLEE CLARK – “DARK TREES” Regular price $4,000.00 ”. as a surprise to my husband on our anniversary. Also, let me know if you accept CHECK as mode of Payment.

Thanks and best regards

Pamela Mcallister

Over the years we’ve received hundreds of these emails in our gallery inbox. Each varies, but the gist is the same: an interested buyer is contacting you to make an inquiry about purchasing an artwork from your website. The prospect is exciting – this is the whole reason we spend so much time, effort and money creating a site in the first place – but something seems a little off about the email. The writing is not only stilted and the grammar odd, the email also includes extraneous details.

By now most of you likely already recognize this kind of email as a likely scam, and I’ve explored this kind of scam in previous posts and podcasts. I feel like it’s a good idea, however, to bring this topic up from time to time to make sure that anyone who hasn’t been exposed to the scam before is aware and prepared to respond when one of these emails shows up in their inbox.

The email above appeared in my inbox several weeks ago, and just as I was about to delete it, I decided that I would instead reply to see if the scam has changed since the last time I engaged with a similar emailer about 7 years ago (spoiler alert: it hasn’t, much).

My first reply was simple.

Thank you for your email. We would be happy to help you acquire “Dark Trees” – it will make a great anniversary gift!

We do accept payment by check. If you can let me know where we will be shipping the painting, I will be happy to provide a total with the shipping cost included.

This is basically how I would reply to any inquiry that came through the website. I try to be courteous and to the point.

Just a few minutes later, I received a reply

Thanks for your response,I must tell you I intend to give my husband a surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece. Also If you’d like to know, I’m relocating to Canada soon and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. So I’m trying to gather some good stuff to make this event a surprise one. I am buying the piece as part of gifts to him (quickly before someone else grabs it). If we agree on a reasonable price,I will authorize a CHECK to you for the payment.

As regarding shipping, you don’t have to worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my husband for the surprise.My shipping agent (who is also moving my Truck and my Properties) will contact you to arrange for the pick-up of the piece (this is to avoid my husband receiving it,if been shipped directly to my address would ruin the surprise for this event). You both have to sign a proof of pick up at the most. So as soon as you receive the CHECK and it clears in your bank, my shipping agent will get intouch..

As regarding payment, I would like to inform you, that my husband handles the family credit card/bank and PayPal transaction. So i would authorize a CHECK to you for the payment.I would have handled this much differently if I’d been at home but at the moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean, with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and won’t be back for another couple of weeks.

Regards,

Pamela Mcallister.

PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your FULL NAME as you want it to appear on the CHECK, ADDRESS (PHYSICAL ADDRESS PLS..FedEx does not deliever to P.O.BOX ) where you want the CHECK delivered by courier service including your ZIPCODE and PHONE NUMBER, so the CHECK can be sent right away.

Right away, an experienced seller of art will hear alarm bells. Having spent over 25 years in the art business, I can tell you that I have never received an email like this from a legitimate client. Here are the clues:

  1. The language is odd, like it’s come out of Google’s translation service. “I must tell you I intend to give my husband a surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece”??? “if been shipped directly to my address would ruin the surprise for this event”??? “Pamela” hasn’t indicated that “she” is not a native English speaker, but these constructs are highly unusual, to say the least. It’s certainly possible to sell art to art buyers outside the U.S., we do it all the time, but I can tell you that they usually compose English better than native speakers. This clue in and of itself is not a dead give-away, but it should be a warning.
  2. A serious buyer won’t spin a long, detailed story about why the artwork needs to be purchased right away. I guess these scammers think that the more detail they provide, the more authentic their inquiry will seem. I’ve never had a client send me an email this long about a purchase.
  3. The story gets even more elaborate. Not only is this a surprise gift, which means the “client” can’t use a credit card (notice that I never bothered to ask for a credit card, but “she” goes to the trouble of explaining why “she” can’t use a credit card or PayPal), but “she” is also on a training voyage in the “North Atlantic Ocean.” Wow, what kind of exotic job does “Pamela” have!?
  4. She’s going to take care of the shipping details with her own company. This is a dead giveaway that this is a scam, and is at the heart of the fraudulent effort. More on this later.

Excellent Pamela! I will be happy to make arrangements with your shipper.

You may make the check for $4,000 and send it to:
Xanadu Gallery
7039 E Main St. #101
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
I will have the artwork ready for shipment as soon as we receive the check.
Please let me know if you need any additional information.

Jason

Simple instructions. The response:

Hi Jason,

Thanks for your response,i will proceed to instruct your Payment at the earliest,i hope to visit your studio with my husband in the nearest future after our anniversary. In order not to leave any clue to my husband for the surprise, I’ve contacted my Boss to issue out the check and have it sent to you.

I would have handled this much differently if i would be at home but I’m a bit pressed for time myself. I’m moving to Canada by next month end…

As it is, I’m sending you an OVER PAYMENT which will include my shippers fees as well.He has asked for an upfront before coming and since I have no access to a lot of cash, I’m trying to kill two birds with a stone. So, once you’ve received and cashed the check, deduct your funds and PLEASE help me send the remaining funds to the(shipper). I’ll forward his contact details to you once you’ve received the payment.

Now I’m concluding you’re a responsible person and I can therefore entrust you with this arrangement.I’ll let you know Immediately the check has been sent to you, so you should be looking out for it.

Many thanks and talk to you soon,

Pamela

and then

KIndly include your mobile number so you can be informed once your Check Payment is in transit

Pamela

There was no way I was going to provide my mobile number, so I just ignored the request and replied:

That will work just fine. I will email you once we have received the check. Please let me know if I may be of further assistance with this process.

Jason

I also ignored the final proof that this is definitely a scam, the announcement that “Pamela” is going to send me an “OVER PAYMENT.” This is how they get ya. By sending an overpayment, the scammer can then request that you send a money order or wire transfer for the overage.

It was about 10 days before the promised check finally appeared, which was another oddity considering what a big deal “Pamela” had made about overnighting the check via courier.

I have to admit that even though I was anticipating the check and knew that it would be fraudulent, my heart still skipped a beat when I opened the envelope. There is something primal about having a check for $9,000.09 in your hands. I wanted to believe, and this is what the scammer is counting on.

This particular scam attempt was quite audacious – the scammer was trying to take me for $5,000!

To add to the ridiculous nature of this attempted scam, the next day we received an exact duplicate of the check and the envelope.

“Pamela” is a real amature to have allowed this to happen. The checks both have the same check number, date, and signature, and the envelopes both use the same tracking number. I would hope that anyone receiving these duplicate checks would realize that something wasn’t right and call the whole deal off. I wanted to see how things would unfold, however, and so kept our conversation going.

Good Morning Jason,

How are you doing and I hope you are in the right frames of mind, reports reaching me has it that the check in the amount of $9,000.09 USD from PNC with check# xxxxxx4029, account # xxxxxxx9314 shall be delivered to you via USPS courier delivery today at the earliest or tomorrow at the latest for payment of the piece as well as funds for shipping and handling as earlier discussed.

Please let me know as soon you are in receipt of the check and proceed to have it deposited at your bank for it to process. Additional information on shipping arrangements shall be furnished as soon the check is deposited and cleared.

Best Regards.

Pamela.

“I hope you are in the right frames of mind”???

I was out of town when this email came in, and didn’t see it for a full 24 hours, so there was a second email in my inbox.

Good Morning Jason,

Sequel to the delivery and receipt of the check for the piece which was inclusive of funds to arrange shipping and handling arrangements, I have NOT read from you since you have received the check and it’s the second day of a new week now please let me know the current status of the check if deposited or cashed so further arrangements on the pick up can be ensued.

However if I do not hear from you soonest by noon, I shall not hesitate to contact the authorities as it’s a financial crime to be in possession of our company check for the piece and NOT responding by keeping mute. A legal action shall be instituted against you but I will wait to hear from you with head ups.

Pamela.

My, that escalated quickly! I couldn’t help chuckling a little as I responded.

Hello Pamela, thank you for the email and I hope that you are in the right frame of mind as well.

We received your check yesterday, but unfortunately it was made out for way too much for the transaction. The total due for the artwork was $4,000, and the check provided was for $9,000.09, over $5,000 in excess of the amount due. Please provide a return address for the check and I will send it back so a check can be issued in the correct amount.

Thank you.

Jason

Hi Jason,

This is really unfair and you know I had no other plan for the anniversary gift except this piece. Prior before now,I stated clearly in my previous messages before proceeding with Payment that this purchase is meant to be an anniversary surprise for my husband ,couple with our relocation process which is been handled by the shipper.Also payment instruction thus come in one check (because my boss is only available to instruct payment on one Check ) which includes my Shippers fees for the pickup and other errands.I trusted you before entrusting this to you and you gave instruction that I should proceed with the payment?Now the payment has been delivered to you,do not put me to shame .I’m concluding you’re a responsible person and I can therefore entrust you with this arrangement.Keep me informed once your Check has been deposited for Process.

Sincerely,

Pamela

$5,000 is a ridiculous amount for shipping and other incidentals. We would be happy to help facilitate this purchase, but we cannot forward $5,000. If you cannot send another check, we would be happy to accept a credit card payment.

Thank you.

Jason

Hi Pamela – I’ve been trying to figure out how to make this work. How would we be paying your shipping company, and what is the amount? Maybe we could refund you part of the check directly.

If that’s not desirable, just let me know and I will send the check back to you.

Jason

At this point we had exchanged over a dozen emails, and I was tiring of the ruse, but I decided to let the drama continue to unfold to see how “Pamela” would respond and try to salvage the scam attempt.

Thanks for getting back to me, is there a way you can help me purchase 3 pieces of $1,000 USPS postal Money Orders totaling $3,000USD then overnight it today to my associate. Her name is Susan Anne Smith and her address is p o box 486 interlachen fl 32148. You can leave it blank so she can write her name on them when she gets it tomorrow. However I will notify you with the shipper information and how much to send to him as soon this is done today.

All you need do is go to any USPS post office near you with cash of $3,000 and purchase the postal money orders. Please include both the customer copies in it and have it shipped next day to her then get back to me with the tracking number. I will be waiting to read from you as soon this is completed today. Thanks

Pamela

That will not be possible – your check has not been deposited and would need to clear first. This all seems to be getting fishy – how can you assure me that this is not a scam?

Jason

The check was received yesterday and the instruction was to have it deposited for it to process so the funds can be available for use but for some reasons you have not deposited the payment till now delaying and dragging this transaction.

You asked me to give you instruction on how to send funds which was what I just did and now you are talking about scam when you have all my budget in full sum with you and holding it for nothing. Kindly have the check deposited today and when it clears you can have the postal orders sent.

Thanks

Pamela

Well, that settles it, I better comply since I have the “budget in full sum”!

Hi Pamela,

We did not deposit the check because the amount was at such discrepancy from the amount due. If we send $3,000, that still leaves $2,000 above the cost of the art. We cannot send money orders, only a check.

Jason

But you were aware that all the funds budget to spend is coming to you at the time I contacted you and I was clear that the funds would be sent to my shipper which you agreed. Now that you have the check in hand you did not deposit it and trying to tell me how to use my money. I think I may have to cancel this purchase as you are giving me headaches already while I trusted you from the beginning even when I had the chance to stop the check I allowed it. Let me know if you will deposit the check today and I will look for a way to get it back from you. Thanks

Pamela

Now I’m afraid I told a lie myself. I consider this fighting fire with fire, or perhaps two wrongs making a right?

Hi Pamela,

Per your instructions I have now deposited the check with our bank. They let me know that the funds will be available on Thursday. I hope you will not cancel the order of this beautiful work of art. We can figure out how to get the balance of the funds to your shipper on Friday. Can I send a check? I would prefer just to send the full $5,000.09 all at once to make things easier for you. Let me know who to make the check out to and where you would like it sent.

Jason

I had not deposited the check, and had no intention of doing so, but again, I wanted to see how it would play it if I hadn’t been aware of the scam and had in fact made the deposit.

Good Morning Jason,
How are you doing today and thanks for keeping me posted about the deposit of the check at your bank, please get back to me with a copy of the deposit slip as proof of deposit as well as proof that I have paid you.

I shall be waiting to hear from you, you can block out or shade off your account information before sending me a photo of the deposit slip as it’s needed for my official archive.

Best Regards
Pamela

Ah good, we’re back on civil terms. I couldn’t send the deposit slip as none was created, but this didn’t stop me from moving the ruse forward.

Hi Pamela – thank you for your email and patiences. I have been out doing a delivery and have not had a chance to respond to your email. The good news is that the check seems to have cleared overnight and the funds are available today, a day early. How would you like to proceed getting the artwork to you?

Jason

Thanks for the update, today please have the sum of $4,900 transferred by wire to the shipper associate where I want the funds to be sent to by means of wire transfer. Find below the information you need to send the $4,900 to :

Bank name: FIRST FINANCIAL BANK
Account name: OXXXXO AUTOMOTIVE LLC
ACCOUNT N0: 5312322158
ROUTINE N0: 042200910
IBAN: 5312322158
ADDRESS: 9XXX XXXXX XXX AVON IN 46123
swifts code: FFBCUS3C

As soon you complete the transfer by wire, kindly get back to me with a photo of the transfer receipt for my official archive.

Note: you are to use the remaining $100 as transfer charges for instant transfer service.

Best Regards.
Pamela

I suspect that the account number aren’t really assigned to the company “she” listed, or, if they are, I would imagine the company is fictitious. If I had followed “Pamela’s” instructions, I would now be out $5,000, and the check I had deposited would have come back as unpayable several days later. I would be left with zero recourse, as “Pamela” would have now completely disappeared.

Time to reveal the arrival of the second check to see how “Pamela” would respond.

Hello Pamela,

My associate just made me aware that something very suspicious has happened. Yesterday we received a second Priority Mail Express delivery that contained an exact duplicate of the check your boss sent us. It even has the same check number! I am very concerned for your boss’ security! It seems that his account may have been compromised.

I was just getting ready to send you the wire transfer in the amount of $4,900, but for your security, I think we better wait until you can make sure your accounts are secure. I am afraid someone is copying your company checks for nefarious purposes. They may have invaded your wire transfer account as well, and the money I wire you might be stolen when I make the transfer. I will keep the money safely in my account until you can assure that the account is secure.

Thanks for your concerns Jason, the matter of security is of high concern and if you notice the check number are the same and I had been made aware about this from my boss I was just going to make sure the second check gets to you and you inform me just to be sure you are truthful and sincere. The second check was sent in error by the accounts department due to USPS courier delivery error so trash the second check as funds are already released on the first one so you can complete the wire transfer.

I can confirm and assure you everything is fine from my end because I was already aware you were going to get a second check but was waiting if you would be truthful enough to let me know. Thanks so much that you are the best. Go ahead and complete the transfer and get back to me.

Thank You so much you are simply the best!
Pamela

I am grateful for your truthfulness and reliability Pamela, I’ve not worked with a customer that has the same level of honesty and integrity that you do. I will continue to prepare the wire transfer of funds, but I need a letter from your boss on the company letterhead that will assure me that the check we deposited was authentic and real, and that the funds have been authorized. Once I have that letter from your boss, then I will immediately and right away send the wire transfer to your authorized account for your immediate dispersal.

Thank you Pamela, you are outstanding.

Jason

I couldn’t resist employing some of the same kinds of linguistic flourishes that “Pamela” was using so effectively.

Please don’t do this to me Jason, you should understand it’s close of business at this time and such letter is the easiest to get from him, if you notice the check with same check number and same tracking number was delivered and cleared which means the one delivered is NOT a compromised one.

I understand your concerns as my associate need the wire transfer completed today. Am sure you wouldn’t want me to cancel this entire purchase and have the funds reversed as I have given you adequate quotes and assurance everything is fine. If it was a different check number it means something is compromised but it was same check number with adequate same information. You are smarter to understand this could be an error since it was both sent to you. Adhere with one and trash the other.

Thanks
Pamela

Hi Pamela,

Please don’t cancel the order after we have come so far working together. I am sure that we can figure this out. My bank will accept as security against the transaction and to allow me to complete the wire transfer for $4,900 if you can send me the letter from your boss on letterhead, or if you can send me a snapshot of your identification card or driver’s license that matches the account showing your full name as Pamela Mcallister. If I have that proper and correct identification then I can send the wire transfer right away. I await your reply.

Jason

Jason,
You should understand am in training and have limited access to scanning facilities I would have canceled this transaction as I found a similar surprise gift suitable for my surprise to my husband yesterday. My text messages and email correspondence with you is enough confirmation but if the wire transfer to the associate shipper is not achieved today I may have to find a gift elsewhere as this is giving me headaches already. I wonder why a purchase is this difficult.

Thanks
Pamela

My scammer is counting on my desperation to keep the sale and hopes that the threat of cancelling the sale will prod me into action.

Hi Pamela,

I’m sorry this has been such a challenge. I wouldn’t have expected it to be, but the two checks have raised concerns with the bank. I would like to get this transaction completed for you to make the art the perfect gift for your anniversary. You can snap a photo with your mobile phone of your ID, which I am certain that you would always have with you for security and identification.

As soon as I have the photo of your identification, we will immediately send the wire transfer to the account you indicated. I have the $4,900 ready to transfer. It is a small request to confirm your identification and it is not difficult to complete.

Jason

Here is my SSN and I hope this helps
Pamela McAllister SSN: 25xxxx65 [I’ve masked the number, assuming that it’s an appropriation of a real SS#] please don’t ask for further identification because I just released my social security number to you now. I don’t have access to scanning facilities. I hope to read from you with a photo of the wire transfer confirmation receipt in your next email.

Thank You.
Pamela

My bank requires me to have a photo of your ID with your photograph on it. You can use your mobile phone and send a photo to me very easily. Please don’t delay, I only have 19 minutes before my bank closes to send you the wire transfer for $4,900 today.

Jason

I have done all I could to ensure this work ,at this point,i will have to cancel this transaction.Do not bother with the purchase any more.

Pamela

I do not want to lose your business or the sale. I will call my bank right now to send the transfer. I will tell them that they need to process the wire transfer for $4,900, even though we can’t send them the ID tonight. Your shipper should be able to see the wire transfer effective within the next sixty minutes.

Thank you for your patience, and I apologize that this has been so difficult.

Jason

I have great news! The wire transfer has been completed. My banker, Virginia Williams of Wells Fargo bank emailed me to let me know that the wire transfer is complete.

The bank was closing when the wire was sent, so I will have the full confirmation in the morning, but I can confirm that $4,900 was deducted from my account via wire transfer.

Please have your shipper contact me at his earliest convenience to confirm the receipt of the funds and to make arrangement for the artwork to be picked up.

Thank you Pamela.

Jason

Of course, I never had any intention of sending the transfer, but I hoped to see “Pamela” stay with me just a little longer. Any of “her” time that I wasted was time that “she” couldn’t spend trying to scam someone else.

Thanks for the good news, you can log into your account and get me the receipt from account summary as it is needed to contact the shipper for confirmation of funds. You can also send me a copy of the email from your bank.

Thanks
Pamela

Hi Pamela, I’m afraid we ran into another hitch. The manager of the bank was concerned about the check because I had told her about the duplicate check. She has put the wire transfer on hold until we can confirm that the funds have cleared. This may take until Monday or Tuesday. I understand you will be very disappointed at the delay, and if we need to, we can cancel the order. I’m sorry this isn’t working out smoothly.

Jason

Hey Jason,

We have come this far not to achieve this purchase, I already informed you that the second check was mailed in error since it has same check number with your name on it and I asked that you trash the later you received. Is that too much to ask? I also gave you my SSN which is all about me yet you still allowed your banker to put a HOLD on the transaction.

This is highly unfair, you have my money in full budget now with you as well as the art piece leaving me with nothing. The only information I have of you are your name, address and cell phone number which you hardly respond to text messages because I have been texting that number.

You told me this morning you would be able to send me the confirmation for the funds you transferred and now you are putting a HOLD on a cleared payment that was made to you. This is unfair.

Thank you so much for everything as today is Friday I want to be able to get the transfer to shipper associate confirmed this morning as you have promised, don’t let me believe you have been lieing all along by giving me a series of numbers with an ACH in front so I can believe it’s some sort of confirmation. Have banker do the needful and get back to me because if I report to my boss about this, your account will be reversed and flagged as fraud. You will loose everything.

Pamela

Unfortunately there is nothing I can do, the bank will not release the wire transfer because the check transaction has been flagged for fraud.

Jason

I could have kept the ruse going a bit longer, and I imagined several scenarios to do so. I decided, however, that not knowing who I was really dealing with, it would be unwise to further antagonize “Pamela.” While I assume the scammer is in another country and wouldn’t be able to engage in a serious reprisal, I was concerned the an attempt might be made to deface my online ratings or something similar, and I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

Had I been communicating anonymously, under a pseudonym, I would have felt no compunction dragging the communication out further to see what the results would be, and to further waste the scammer’s time and resources.

Interestingly, after that last email, “Pamela” went completely silent. I haven’t heard another peep from “her”, which would be highly unusual if “she” were a legitimate customer; as far as “she” knows I’m still holding $9,000.09 of her funds. I don’t expect to hear from the scammer again, however, as I’m sure he/she has moved on to other victims.

 

FAQs About Email Scams

I frequently receive inquiries from artists who have received similar emails, and want to know what they should do. Here is a list of the most frequent questions in this regard, and my responses.

Is there some way to block emails from online scammers, I get regular emails from them.

Not that I’m aware of. The devious nature of their approach, where they pose as a legitimate customer, would make it very difficult to block them. There would be no way to block these emails without also blocking emails from your real potential customers.

 

How can I avoid being scammed when I do receive one of these emails?

Knowledge and common sense are the key. Being aware of these scam attempts is a big part of the battle. If you are aware, you can take steps to protect yourself when you receive a suspect email. One simple way eliminate the majority of these scammers is to insist on credit card payment for any sales initiated online. You can use squareup.com or a similar service to send your clients an invoice that they can pay by credit card.

It’s possible for scammers to try to use a stolen credit card number, but this is much more difficult for them, and I find that when we request credit card payment, most of these scammers just disappear.

You can also refuse to participate in any proposed shipping scheme. Let those who inquire know that you will only accept payment in the exact amount for the artwork, and that you will arrange the shipping and bill the client separately for that charge. In over 25 years in the art business, I’ve never had a legitimate client try to arrange their own shipping – a request to do so should be a huge red flag.

Under no circumstances should you be forwarding funds back to the client or to a third party.

 

So what should I do when I receive an email from someone I don’t know inquiring about artwork from my website?

We treat every inquiry as legitimate, unless the it’s clear that it is a cut-and-paste scam attempt, like the example above. We treat each inquiry with professionalism, and let our clients know we handle online sales all of the time and will be happy to facilitate their purchase.

Here’s an example of how we might respond to a client inquiring about making a purchase online.

Thank you for your interest in [Artwork Name] by [Artist’s Name]. This is a spectacular piece and would make an outstanding addition to your collection.  It will be our pleasure to help facilitate you in acquiring [Artwork Name].

As you saw on the website, the piece is valued at [Artwork Price], and we can arrange delivery of the artwork at your convenience.

You may complete the transaction on our website directly, or you may call me at [phone number] to provide a credit card.

I look forward to assisting you!

 

 

How can we put an end to these scam attempts?

I wish I had a great answer to this question. My advice in the past has been to ignore the scammers and eventually they will go away. The fact that these scam attempts are still actively being made all of these years after they first appeared tells me that the scammers must be having some success.

I hope that by spreading the word about these scams, I can play some small part in reducing their effectiveness. You could do the same by sharing this post with your contacts.

My recent interaction with “Pamela” has left me wondering if we could all be even more active in defeating the scams by giving them a taste of their own medicine.

By responding, I tied up the scammer, and cost him time and a few dollars in postage and printing to get the check to me. While I wouldn’t suggest wasting time to the extent I did in my engagement with the scammer, it wouldn’t take much to get them to send their fake check along.

If I were to do this again, I would use a fake email account and name, and I would likely provide the mailing address the local police department or the area office of the FBI.

If everyone reading this post were to join me, I suspect we could significantly raise the cost of doing business for these scammers and make the economics of the scam far less favorable for them.

What do you say – are you in? Share your thoughts about these scams and any experience you’ve had dealing with online scammers in the comments section below.

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126 Comments

  1. I received the exact scam a year ago and it was a man buying a piece of my artwork. I was so excited! Until I googled him…the address was from Houston and he was not who he said he was. Darn! Lol
    Cheers, Susan
    artbyssnow.fineartamerica.com

  2. Hi Jason, It looks like you had fun with this one. It was my first chuckle for the
    morning. Been in the same position a couple of times.

    You are such an asset to the art community.

    Paula Pearl

  3. Yes, I had the same thing happen to me. My first clues were the language, second was they wanted to buy a painting from my website but it was any painting up to $4,000 not a particular one. Again it was urgent for an anniversary gift. They did the same thing with the shipping overpayment with some excuse that they were on a oil rig out in the middle of the ocean and couldn’t cash their wage check so was sending the extra to cover shipment which they wanted me to send to a third person in the States. I received the cheque very quickly and the next day they emailed wanting me to send the overpayment right away. I insisted on waiting until the cheque cleared and they kept pressuring me to send it. Of course the cheque bounced so I was out a NSF fee and alot of time and headache. Didn’t hear back after that, however a year later they tried the same thing with a slighly different angle. I just reported it as scam. Thank you for addressing this as I had not heard about it until it happened to me.

    1. NSF fees. That’s what really bites. If you’re not sure, you should be able to just deposit and let it sit there until you’re sure if the funds are real or not, but instead the banks got the bright idea to start charging the innocent receiver in addition to the nefarious rubber-check writer.

    2. Yes, I received the same request! My guy was “buying” a birthday gift for his wife. Though I had many paintings on my website, he wanted a new one; no specifications. I replied asking for a size, shape, her favorite colors, oil or pastel, and a deposit of $50.00 before I would start. Weird. He replied several times without much detail. I’m so grateful that I read your Emails about scams. I hadn’t been sure! Now I know that I need to “put him off”! I might reply to him saying that I have several commissions (I do!) to paint before I could start on his & if he wants to add his name to the commission roster, he ought to do it soon since I have other patrons who I’m in touch with! Or….maybe I’ll say nothing! What do you think?

  4. I have had one or two of those suspicious emails. My standard response is “I only accept payment thru Pay Pal. And, in fact, I do only accept payment thru them. I haven’t lost a sale because of this and those fakes that go quietly in the night are no loss.

  5. I receive these scams on a regular basis. I always ask for PayPal payment which usually ends the correspondence although once I did get a scam paypal payment. After checking my account, I found that there were no funds deposited. Thanks for your interesting story.

  6. Interesting idea. But shouldn’t you/we get buy in or agreed cooperation from the FBI first? Especially to organize a coordinated effort. Appreciate the amount of time it took you to test the scammer and explain it to us all.

    1. Unfortunately, there are so many of these scams that there wouldn’t be enough FBI agents to handle each one of them if they were reported as they happening. They run the same thing with apartments listed to rent and FSBO houses. When I’ve received e-mails like these, I send them a fake invoice with instructions to put it in with the check and then the address I give them is the FBI office closest to me. Since I’m now out of law enforcement, I don’t know if they send the checks there, but I was out of town at the time and didn’t have time to “play” the scammers.

        1. I have had several similar scams the first one was several years ago and I received a bogus check for over the amount of the painting. I took it to the bank and asked if there was a way of checking on the legitimacy of the check they said to deposit it. They came back about 3 or 4 days later with the info that it was bogus and charged me a fee and froze my accounts (thanks bank) Do not deposit one of these checks as the bank treats you as the criminal. Later scams were identical and tried to use credit cards. I use to play them for a while but they got to be so many that my response has been to reply by insulting their mother and what she does in Hell. Not professional I know but it felt good to curse them out. I found odd that they prey on artist who are some of the least wealthy victims maybe they could figure out a new scam to play on Wall Street Bankers

  7. I have had one or two of those suspicious emails. My standard response is “I only accept payment thru Pay Pal. And, in fact, I do only accept payment thru them. I haven’t lost a sale because of this and those fakes that go quietly in the night are no loss. That being said, I like your idea of screwing with them as much as your tolerance will stand.

  8. I have had about four of these scams over the past two years – one scammer actually phoned me suggesting I believe she was calling from Ireland. I have found the best way to deal with the scammers is when you get down to the nitty gritty of payment and that is usually when their approach falls apart. All you have to do is use common sense.
    David Burch: http://www.davidburchpaintings.com

  9. Thank you so much for this! I’ve usually ignored the obvious scams or responded with a “credit card” only transaction and they disappeared. So interesting to see just how far they would go to convince you to send them money, NOT necessarily the art, but the money. Really fun to see how well you did with this. You’ve made my day!

  10. I have on 3 occasions been subjected to almost identical scams, but the gift was for a wife rather than a husband. I was very suspicious the first time but, like you, played along for a few days, before I finally just quit answering him. I then got a very ugly email, which I ignored. The following two times I didn’t even respond.
    I truly hope your email today will protect some unsuspecting artist! Thanks, Jason!

  11. Wow, they really stuck with you till the end there. Thanks for the laughs. I also found it disturbing. I hope no one falls for this!

  12. Jason that was quite the scam and you dragging it on like that would have made me squirm. I had the same situation happen to me. I allowed the scammer to send me the check and when I received it I called the issuing bank to see if it was real. The bank had closed and was no longer in business. It seems the scammer had gotten hold of some of their checks to continue the scam. I called the local police department to inform them and they knew about it already.
    It’s true the excitement of a sale can cloud our judgement but knowing what we know about these creeps makes us ever more diligent.

  13. I have received this three times. The first time I thought it was too good to be true but wanted to believe it. However I found it to be a scam before I responded.

    I have a system for indentifying and qualifying “real buyers” from tire kickers and scammers.

    Not that tire kickers are wrong or scammers by any means but they can be indentified for how much energy should be devoted to a sale. Thanks Jason!!!

  14. I get variations of this from time to time, and ignore them. As you said, the language, spelling, etc. flag them as not legit. In my experience they never specify which piece they’re interested in. If they could be tracked down, they’d likely face mail and bank fraud charges, but who knows where in the world they’re spamming us from.

    On my Squarespace site I’m able to see the ISP and location of people visiting my site, and visitors from some countries do raise an eyebrow, although I’ve never directly connected a visit to one of these emails.

    I admire your patience in “dragging the transaction”, and am surprised they hung in there as long as they did, although 5K is not a small amount.

  15. One doesn’t require to be in the business for 25 years to see this potential shower on the horizon. Apart from receiving a check – I’ve had this in all ways known to man.
    I’ve also taken great delight to try it on with these idiots up to a point where I cease to receive any further contact.
    A wicked shame because for ONE of me – there are multiples of others who are as gullible as a two-year old – and get stung.
    Scamming an eager artist out of his/her living funds is one of the most despicable acts I know.

    Arthur Benjamins: http://www.1pilgrimstudio.com

  16. I had the same scam several years ago. I was suspicious when I received a check for too much and instructions to send the excess to their “shipper”. Interestingly it looked to be issued by the same bank I used, so I took it in and they confirmed that it was a bogus account number. I left it with their fraud department and informed the scammer that I had done so. Never heard from them again!

  17. I have received a number of these over the past few years, amazingly worded in very similar ways. I almost believed the first, and when it began to seem sketchy, I googled a list of scammers names and my inquirer was right there. At that point I just sent him an email suggesting that he find a better way to make a living than by preying on the desires of artists who often depend on sales. At one point, I followed the advice of an artist friend and referred the inquirer to the gallery I am affiliated with. But now that I hear from you that you have received these scams as a professional dealer, I wouldn’t want them to have to deal with this. So now I just delete.

  18. Jason,
    Thank you for this story, It was very entertaining and eye opening. Sadly, this scam is all too common on a lot of online marketplaces…I’m glad we have you on our side to prevent this from happening to one of us!!

  19. What a shame people go to such lengths to cheat and deceive others. This was an eye opening article and the comments above reinforced the message. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  20. I have received so many of these I’ve lost count. If they seem really convincing I send a reply thanking them for their interest in my work and the price. The last one replied with all of the usual instructions about how they would pay and how they would have the work shipped. It also included how their daughter had cancer which was supposed to make me fee very sympathetic.
    So I replied in such a way that it ended the scam immediately.
    I told this person that I only accept payment by e-transfer; when the cash is in the bank, then we will discuss shipping.
    That ended the communication. No more emails after that.
    Perhaps this will help someone else.

  21. A very similar experience happened to me. Playing along with a scam can be fun.

    The check I received was certified so you might think it was good, right? I had already figured out I was being scammed and took the check to the bank to see what they said about it. THEY THOUGHT IT WAS GOOD! I insisted that they call the issuing bank to verify and that told the tale. It was another innocent person whose account info had been hacked.

    An exchange of emails followed as the “buyer” pressured me to send money. The check was certified and certainly had cleared and was already showing in his account. (My banker told me that it could have taken more than a week for the check to come back – so time was of the essence for the scammer to close the deal.).

    I offered to refund the overpayment via PayPal and got his PayPal account info. This has to backed up by a verified bank account so I figured the scammer could be tracked by that. I turned over all the details to the police, but they were not interested. They advised me to stop communicating with the scammer for my own security. So best advice to your readers is to ignore an obvious scam.

    Meanwhile, I do have a certified check on which I’ll pay you a 50% commission to cash for me. I’ll be too involved with painting to do it myself. Just wire $50 to my accountant now to cover his expenses.

  22. Well, Jason I read the whole exchange and my husband kept asking what was SO funny. You certainly gave my my first good laugh of the day.

    Some years ago, I worked my shift at the co-op gallery with another member who excitedly told me someone from England wanted to purchase one of his metal sculptures. They were sending a courier that very day and his wife was waiting with the piece. RED FLAG! I advised him to call his wife immediately and tell her to not release the piece, nor to accept the check.

    I get many of these and, interestingly enough, they seem to come in batches. My first thought is for those to whom this is new, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Second, look for grammatical errors. Looks as though the longer you strung Pamela along, the more careless she became with grammar and sentence structure. Third is the boilerplate format of the initial email. They’re usually desperate to make the purchase as a surprise and they often tug at your heartstrings; daughter is going off to college and daddy won’t see her for a year, wife has an incurable disease and my painting would make her so surprised and happy, etc. Finally, they often say they’ve been on my website and have fallen in love with a particular painting…could I please tell them the price and be sure to include my email and phone number. Well, thanks to your advice Jason, I put the prices of my paintings right there on my website, to that’s a sure sign it’s a scam, too.

    I shall send this blog on to all the other artist members at the co-op gallery here in Flagstaff. I’m sure they’ll get a good laugh from this along with helping them identify scammers in the future.

  23. This is “shipping issue” is also a common scam when you try to sell items over a certain amount on Craigslist. So be aware.

    But, I have a question: if we sell art to a collector taking a credit card, how can we be assured they won’t challenge the sale? Many years ago I sold a piece of art at a fair to a couple who used Travelers Cheques. I even took ID. I was upset to learn that they then reported the cheques as lost or stolen and Amex tried to deny me the payment. Is having them sign for delivery of the art sufficient?

  24. Jason, thanks so much for your efforts to show artists what to expect with these emails. Over the many years I’ve had a website, I must have gotten 150 or so of them. As you say, the grammar, weird shipping arrangements, and limited ways they can pay says “scam”. Often there’s not much concern about the art itself — just that it is available NOW, because of the “gift” — and stories of a move, being on a ship so no access to whatever, etc. and other colorful details. I’ve sometimes gone along with it, to see how they’d deal with my request for Paypal, etc. But that gets tiring, so now I tell them that artists often have little extra funds, so it’s mean to target us, and I hope they find a more honest way to earn money.

  25. Wahahaha! Jason, you are amazing. After I realized it was a scam, I simply replied that my local Sheriff’s office needed their contact information a.s.a.p. Radio silence. 🙂

  26. Appropriately enough, I got an email wanting to purchase all of my most expensive paintings on my website on April Fool’s Day. He wanted pricing, which is clearly marked on each painting. I got a laugh and deleted it.

  27. I enjoyed reading your story. Language and syntax are a huge clue. Temper tantrums are common if you play with them. As I use hotmail, I forward scammers to the Hotmail scam site so they can track it.

  28. Yup, I’ve received a couple of those and I reply politely, mentioning the payment methods I use (we don’t use checks in Norway). Once, they kept it going for 5 emails before giving up

  29. Hi Jason. My name is Daniel and I own and operate Shi Yazhi Sage Gallery & Studio in Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is a great article – thank you for it, I very much enjoyed it. I have been in business since March 1, 2018 and I have experienced the exact scenario 3 times.

    The first 2 times I carefully walked may way through to receiving the extra amount check. I then took it to my bank and advised them that I suspected the check(s) to be fraudulent so, they checked it without taking action on it. They immediately could determine that it was fake. In the very first case, I did reluctantly gave out my mobile number and I received texts from the anonymous. Each check I did receive arrived exactly as your article illustrates, only it was just the check – there was no check stub. I advised the “purchaser” that I was uncomfortable with this arrangement and I would be returning the check to the address on the check, via text. The “purchaser” then changed their tune to “can you do this for me as a favor?”

    My bank advised me to report the scam to the police but it would be unlikely that there would be any resolve for it. Each case had a story about being abroad, they are moving and their shipper would contact me, and had an excuse for me to pay cash directly to their shipper. I too, did a complete write up on these experiences on Facebook to warn my family and friends.

    My suspicion is these scammers are successful otherwise they wouldn’t keep doing it. We have to be vigilant in the steps it takes to verify authentic customer purchases. If there are inconsistencies, then that should be suspicious. The last attempt to scam me, I simply called them out by predicting the future scenario they would present to me in writing before going further. Their response was profanity filled.

    Thanks again.

    ~d

  30. A few years back I was getting these every month, sometimes more.
    With my first one, I went the distance with an Iceland connection and international shipper of their choice. The address looked fishy and with google earth I zoomed in and saw what appeared to be abandoned warehouse. Even so I continued the correspondence. They wanted me to enroll in PayPal Pro and they sent a link. It was not a real link. I finally talked to a Paypal rep and they told me to forget paypal pro, & instead helped me to set up an invoice in normal paypal. I sent the link to the person & this is what finally stopped them.
    What a waste of time!
    Well, my lesson was learned on that run around, but even though these type of emails still trickle in, I gotta wonder what kind of scum does this to artists?
    My latest response to this obvious scam is either No Response, or when I’m feeling tricksy, I direct them to my Saatchi art profile.

  31. I have a vacation rental and I get once a month a different mans name who wants to rent the Tiny House Dream Lodge but he says his work is paying for his vacation so they have to send me a check directly. Do they think we are stupid? I got a kick at reading this article because I thought about playing my scammer for a while but was afraid of what other info he could have gotten. Tnx, this was a good read!!!

  32. I’m pretty sure I would be saved by the sheer complexity of all this, causing me to quit! It’s not worth the trouble. Good for you, Jason, to follow through until the bitter end.

  33. I do two things when I get these scam emails. 1) I Google the email address. Sometimes the address shows up as a known ‘scammer.’ 2) I tell them I only accept PayPal. Usually they just go away.

  34. I had “headaches” just from reading “Pamela’s” emails! I did recently receive a scam email from someone who’s name was the same as one of our first Presidents. Don’t recall the name now. As soon as I see the first few lines of such emails on my phone, I delete. I rarely open them on my laptop, for fear of a virus. The emails I’ve gotten do not even come in via my website messaging option. They all try to make it sound like they are familiar with my work, but then there’s always some tell-tale letting me know they hadn’t even looked at it. This latest scammer wanted to know which pieces are already ‘sold’, whether I ship overseas, and if I accept credit card payments. I don’t respond. Best thing I think is to keep getting the word out to artists.

  35. Thanks for all this…..very entertaining and enlightening. For myself, I usually just delete these messages, even though I’ve only received a couple over the years. I’m going to forward this to my gallery colleagues.

  36. Jason-
    I was scammed about five years ago when this type of fraud was starting up. I got similar emails, but the kicker against me is that they wanted DHL to deliver the artwork.
    Now DHL is a legitimate shipper, and at that time they mostly did shipping on the European continent.
    Their websites were minimal, so it was hard to find anything related to who their agents were, and it wasn’t easy even trying to find a contact phone number on their website for customer support, or any info on their sites about scamming operations.
    The scammer said that the delivery had to be pre-paid, and that was the kicker. The scammer recommended a DHL “agent” to work with, so I emailed the “agent” and all of my emails and the “website” to work with were all a scam-but they included DHL logos/markings in the emails and it looked like the DHL website or a legitimate email. So I was thinking that I was speaking to a rep from DHL, and he requested the delivery charge up front, so while the check was clearing, I sent the money. I then got the message from the bank that the check was a fraud, the scammer email and DHL agent email were no longer working. I had wired the money through a bank transfer, so it was impossible to get my money back-another flag that I should of recognized.
    Yes I lost some money but I didn’t lose my paintings!
    So now I am real skeptical of any “we need to send the paintings quickly…” or “soon my husband/wife’s anniversary is coming up and I need to get this done fast” type email sell messages.
    Normally I just ignore the message, and I don’t hear from them again.
    I do appreciate the hassle you gave this scammer!!!
    J

  37. Now I’m depressed. I’ve never been approached by a scammer wanting to buy my art. This tells me that (1) my art is not up to scam art standards, (2) my art is not pricey enough, and (3) my website SEO is failing.

  38. You certainly had more time and patience that I did. Same scam–male–Hawaii moving to Germany–same shipper scenario. I simple said that after consulting my “lawyer” we would have to make other arrangements for payment because he was not comfortable with this arrangement. Total silence from then on. However, on the positive side, the last one I received proved to be real–three paintings over a few months–cashiers check for the first two. Make a friend–personal check for the last one.
    It’s real when I see the money!

  39. I received a similar request several years ago and when I received the check, took it to the bank, had them check on it and discovered that it was one of a number of checks which had been stolen. I also received a order from overseas in which the scammer said that they tried, but were unable to make payment with a credit card and wanted to send a check to include amounts for an elaborate shipping / customs fees arrangement.

  40. I got one of these “purchasers” too. His name was Potter Dennis and had the same North Atlantic job story. Since I was going to be out of town, I asked him to send the check to my husband’s business. He did, and then even called to be sure we received it. Then he threatened me when we didn’t respond quickly enough. The funny thing was that I never saw the check. As soon as my husband’s staff received the check, they were skeptical and called the bank. When they learned that it was fraudulent, they shredded it. I sent a note to Potter Dennis, telling him the check had been shredded. I never heard from him again.

  41. I was approached by a scammer by email a year ago. The scenario was very similar to the one you described except that it was a man wanting to buy for his wife for their anniversary. Instead of deleting it, I told them to contact the gallery that represents me. Funny thing, that same week two other artists were contacted in the same manner. Same story, just the names were changed. LOL, we all had a good laugh over it, including the gallery owner, who never heard from the scammers. Unbelievable, how stupid do they think we are?

  42. Jason, you must have been amused with the whole saga or had more time on your hands that week. 🙂

    I’ve received a few with a variation on the same theme. “Anniversary” seems to be popular; in the midst of relocating is another. My favorite was a guy claiming he was in the Merchant Marine out in the middle of the Atlantic and he wanted to pick it up at the Norfolk, VA port within four days. Who ships to the NIT?

    My generally suspicious nature saw red flags with an email of just numbers … I suppose so he could keep track of his various current scams. Speed was another. Vagaries with how we would handle the transaction. And an overnight check, which I don’t accept anyways. His command of English was fair although he wrote succinct, brief sentences. Anyone is more verbose than that ….

    Artists, don’t be so hungry for sales you overextend yourself for anyone for any reason. Business is NOT conducted like that. Ever.

  43. We’ve received several of those type scams over the years, we also get weird ones associated with videos we publish on youtube. They seem to get the general subject correct but fall down on details. “Do you have any sandblast available” is one subject line after we put up an article on sandblasting stained glass.
    After awhile, you get used to these and it’s no big deal, but it just reminds me to be cautious.

  44. I got the same sort of email several years ago and it went to the point that they were going to send me a check. I then got a letter from the postal inspector in Houston asking me to call them about a letter. I did and he said it was flagged because the postage on it was fake and asked me if he could open the letter. I agreed and he said there was a check for $4000. which was about $3000. more than I had asked for. He said it was most likely a scam from Nigeria and that for everyone they find and arrest 3 or 4 more people pop up doing the same scam. I never respond to the emails anymore. In fact I haven’t gotten many, maybe I am on the list of do not scam now since someone may have gotten caught. I have also added to my website that I only accept payment through PayPal. Thanks for your efforts Jason.

  45. Hilarious, Jason, the way you started to mimic the scammers language! Love it! I got a really funny inquiry about 5 years ago along the same lines attempting to use PayPal but with an interesting oceanographer detail that delighted me:

    Scammer response to my initial response of “Yes, you can buy my work that I’m selling online”: “I really appreciate it, I am an oceanographer and am currently at sea at the moment, i am buying the item as a gift for my Dad, i want to make it a surprise for him,he wont know anything about the item until they get delivered to him, i can only pay through paypal as i dont have access to my bank account online as i dont have internet banking,but i have my bank account attached to my paypal account and this is why i insisted on paying you through paypal,So please kindly get back to me with your paypal details and your best price so i can proceed with the payment and after the payment has been done, i have a pick up agent that will come around to pick the item up after i have made the payments for the item…”

    and I responded:

    How interesting that you are an oceanographer as I am also an oceanographer and currently out to sea as well!! This sale will be a total surprise to my husband who thinks all of the art items in my etsy shop are garbage and no one, especially not oceanographers, would appreciate them! Won’t he be surprised when he sees such a large deposit made into our bank account while I am out studying the latest cold water plankton species just discovered by my amazing lead oceanographer boss!!

    The bad news is unless your agent has his or her own boat he or she won’t be able to drop by and pick up the item from the oceanographer ship I am currently aboard with the item. I am sorry though that I won’t get to meet your agent, I bet he/she is a similarly interesting person like you and me even if he or she is not an oceanographer. Ha ha! Just joking, I’m sure your agent is a delightful non-oceanographer.

    Anyway I am confident your dad won’t mind that I send a picture of the original piece rather than the original piece itself because I’d like to sell it a few more times and I have a number of oceanographer friends who want to buy it too for their dads and a few of their moms and one oceanographer’s nephew. So it’s really exciting that so many oceanographers think this drawing will be loved by a family member. I appreciate your understanding in this sensitive matter and since we are both oceanographers I’m sure you do understand. The thing is we all are out to sea so much it’s hard to shop in a timely manner because of all of the difficulties involved with banking while being at sea. Anyway once you have deposited the money into my account I will ask for your fathers mobile number, take a quick snapshot of the item, and send it to him right away! If your dad lives outside the U.S. I will need to ask for an extra fee as I don’t have international coverage at this time. I use the phone on the oceanographer vessel when I’m out at sea it’s so much cheaper.

    Having said all of that, the other reason I’m glad that you’re an oceanographer is that you can understand why I must insist that my best price is not what I have posted on etsy.com of $1250 but rather the best price is $7598. Because demand of this piece is really high and I don’t want to compromise my high oceanographer standards and it’s also important to honor my own self worth, I’ve been forced to raise the price. I’m sure once your dad receives the picture I take of the actual piece of art he will love you more than he ever has in his life because art is transformative like that. What am I saying!?! You’re an oceanographer, you already know that! If however you decide that your dad is special enough to deserve the original piece itself instead of a snapshot via text message I’m sure we can agree to a fair price. And since we are both oceanographers I will give you the standard discount should you decide on that course of action.

    I hope your oceanographering goes well and you are home in time to see the joy in your dad’s eyes that will surely shine brightly from the knowledge that you took time out of your busy oceanographer day to purchase such an exquisite item that so many oceanographers covet for their own families…

  46. This has happened to me, and refusing to take a credit card or paypal ended it quickly. I also had a rental inquiry back when I had an AirBNB, offering double the rate but when I insisted I only rented through AirBNB they disappeared. Getting pulled into this is pretty easy. The first art scam I got was a giveaway because they wanted 3 paintings by name which were very different which set off alarms. Offering more than you ask is the other tell, as they are hoping to appeal to your greed. Thanks for sharing this. Is there any law enforement entity to report this to. Seldom does a case have as much documentation as yours. Also thinking that if the SSN was real it could be part of an ID theft situation and the true owner of the SSN would want to know.

  47. Really enjoyed this story. Like many others I get several of these email “requests to buy” every year. I think the bottom line is that these scammers keep trying because there are people who buy into it. Moreover artists seem very vulnerable because they really want to sell their works and many of them have not done sales via the internet nor encountered this kind of scam. If all artists recognized and laughed at these requests and deleted them then scammers would stop making money and hence stop doing it in favor of some other more profitable scam.

    The heart of this scam is to get you to send them money for over payment. The best defense is to never ever do this…never ever. As for engaging them for entertainment, well everything I read on scam reporting sites says “don’t engage”. But I still enjoyed Jason’s exchange.

    I do hope that other artists who may be new in the art world will read this blog and be more prepared if and when approached.

  48. Thanks for ‘taking one for the team’ and providing both instruction and entertainment to the rest of us! I’ve received plenty of these scam emails and have ignored them…but I totally enjoyed this exchange!

  49. You certainly do have a lot of “patiences” to string a criminal along for that many emails. Hat’s off to you for a thoroughly entertaining exchange. Informative too – but for some reason I prefer entertainment to information. Thanks Jason!

  50. Just a note on notifying the police. Local police in the US are not usually equipped to deal with these scams. I believe the FTC and the FBI have a joint task group that does investigate, however (I know they did, I think they still do). If the scammers use the USPS, it falls under mail fraud and can be investigated by the USPS – which is why most will use Fed-Ex or UPS to deliver the check. If you play with one to the point of getting them to send a check, try to handle it as little as possible. While doing fingerprints or touch DNA is expensive and time-consuming, if they get enough of them from a major suspect, they may try to do some testing.
    The art scammer I conversed with in 2013 was moving from CA to NM and wanted his shipper to pick it up. I told him I was out of the studio on a shooting trip and that my assistant would handle it, but that they needed my specific invoice with the check to make sure they’d send the right photo. There was no way I was going to give him my real address anyway, so I put as many “clues” in my fake invoice as I could and gave him the address that happens to be the FBI office in Pittsburgh. I don’t know if they sent a check as I never heard anything, though.
    The scammer I had the most fun playing with was one who wanted to rent an apartment from us that was listed on Craigslist. He wanted me to send the overage of the check to his furniture people. I told him I looked up the furniture store and paid them in cash. He sent a very panicked sounding e-mail saying that wasn’t what he wanted. I sent back a note to the effect of “gotcha.”

  51. Thank you for this blog. I do not sell on the internet yet, but found the info helpful. AFA noticing the bad grammar goes, I saw an add for an app today that corrects grammar for a user. When scammers start to use this app, the clue of bad grammar may no longer apply.

  52. I had some fun with a scammer as well, and received my large check. I googled the bank it was written on (it was a bank check, not a personal check) and emailed that bank a photo of it. I told them I knew it was a scam and wanted them to know they were being used. I got a call in about 5 minutes from the bank. They were astonished that the check could look so legit, down to the signature of one of their ex-employees. These guys could be pretty clever, but for their bad grammar and language usage!

  53. My husband & I each get these exact scams about three or four times a year. When I am suspicous I send them a brief email indicating that I only take credit cards and I only ship with FedEx and I mention that this is due to scams. I usually say “While I am sure this is not the case with you…” just in case they are not a scam. I think I have had a website for twenty years and I have NEVER had a sale thru my website. So why do I have it? Because local people often go to it and then call to ask about a piece. Or, Jurors who have a one person show as the award in a group show will often look at an artist’s art to see if they can pull off a one person show.

  54. Way to go Jason! I’m still laughing! I received almost the exact same email from a “potential collector” in Austin, TX. He was working offshore on an oil rig. I recognized it pretty quickly as a scam. Fortunately I have a friend who is a former FBI agent. He gave me the FBI website page where we can report these scams. By reporting them we can begin picking off some of the scammers who sadly prey on unsuspecting artists.

    Here’s the link:
    https://complaint.ic3.gov/default.aspx

    I hope everyone who reads this will bookmark this page to have handy when they receive an email from a scammer. Thanks again for revisiting this subject, Mikki Senkarik

  55. I loved your use of the computer translator diction … nice touch!

    I’ve only received one scam inquiry so clearly I need to improve my internet marketing! The scenario was similar to yours — English named person who uses the English language rather badly wanted to purchase art, but had little apparent interest in actually receiving the art. My connoisseur, as happened, chose a rather LARGE work but was curiously not interested in its dimensions. Well, if you have an enormous house … I suppose ….

    My scammer was less diligent than yours. A business-like reply put a kibosh to the whole matter. Money –> painting. That order. No exceptions.

  56. I’m surprised that you engaged the scammer at all. Twice, I’ve received emails from “potential buyers” who wanted to make a purchase with a check sent by mail. Why were they unwilling to use the “shopping cart?” I ignored both emails. My prices are set, and clear to understand.

  57. I delete most of those. Especially the ones that have the word “actually” in them.

    Just curious, Jason. How would you respond using a fake email address?

  58. Thanks for being doubly unfair to that poor, miserable scammer. First you deprive them of their funds, then you publish their emails for our benefit. Well played!

  59. I get these ridiculous emails about once a month and it’s been going on for years. There has been a slight improvement in their grammar but in general the storyline stays the same and the fact that nobody ever talks like that is always a dead giveaway. If you click and hold on the sender name it will usually show you where the email came from and it’s never in the US. Jason, your dogged determination was very enlightening and admirable. It was interesting that after the first couple of emails the artwork was almost never mentioned and it was all about their true intentions. I’m glad you made them feel uncomfortable!

  60. Like many others, I have had this same email and scam attempted on me. One person went even further and used a company name and website. I looked at the website and it looked like a real one until I dug a bit further. Under “contacts”, there was a dept name. Clicking on that there was nothing that came up. I clicked on every link provided on that website and every one of them had no info that came up. They sent a check in the Priority envelope as well…about $2000 over my requested price.

  61. We had an old piano for sale, and got this same offer. Received a check for $10,000 for our $500 piano, with a request to have their shipper drop by and pick up the piano. Right! Kept that check on the fridge for quite a while, good for lots of laughs!

    Now that I have an art website, I get one of these emails about once a year. All so similar. I’ve also been the bearer of bad news to several friends that were excited about the emails they’d received. I was sorry to burst their bubble of excitement over a new sale, but relieved to save them from losing thousands of dollars in these dumb scams!

  62. I have had the art scams in the past.Now I just blow them away. But the first one, I played along. I called the police and met with a detective. I brought copies of all my e-mails to the station. They checked the IP addresses. All were out of country. The police cannot do anything about them. I called the company the Fed X package came from. They have had to set up a whole dept. to deal with all the fraud. These scammers are using other peoples accounts so it doesn’t cost them anything.
    Man, I wanted to do a sting on these guys! Have the police hiding ready to pounce when the shipper came. Guess what? There is no shipper.
    I never cashed the checks, I got 2 also, but took them to the bank for bank to “look” them over. They said they were bogus. So I called the bank named on the check and asked if that was a legitimate check. They said it was not. I was trying to make the scammers loose money. Didn’t happen. They use everyone else’s accounts to do their scamming. There is no way to catch them. It is a real offense to realize that these people try to steal my money that is hard earned. So my last e-mail to them has been along these lines.
    “You are a disgrace to your name, your parents and yourself and to God who created you and whom you will answer to some day for your stealing from people who work hard to earn their money. ” Like they would really care!

  63. Three comments:
    1. Someone above mentioned this site: http://www.kathleenmcmahon.com/info/scammer-names.html. It’s very good. She mentions that the scammers are now using faked Paypal so saying that you only accept Paypal may not always work.

    2. Jason, did you consider contacting USPS. As the fraudulent checks were send by mail, postal inspectors may be willing to investigate.

    3. Thanks for the article. I sent it out to a couple of artist groups I’m in. Depressingly, one person replied saying he had a friend who got taken by one of these scammers. For $2000, which she couldn’t afford.

  64. Well…I experienced this just this past March. I did give the inquiry my mailing address as well as my phone number. That could be part of why I am receiving more spam phone calls, or not. I have not worried about my address or phone number as that information can be found in other places…but, should I be?
    The emails stopped as soon as I provided the address, and I never received anything in the mail. I was glad to see your blog about it for now I can know and be more prepared in the future. Thank you, Jason!

  65. I got several of these a few years ago and I just sent them (with a heads up) to the decorating firm who sells some of my work at an art show in N.C. several times a year. They handled the scammers just fine, saying they only take Pay Pal and do not allow outside shippers. Worked just fine. 🙂

  66. I have received a few scams in the past. I find the quickest way to find out is to reply politely but stating that I only accept payment via paypal or credit card, and I always ship via Fedex.
    They usually do not reply.

  67. Just had reply…received an almost identical letter a week ago, Jason, and made a similar response. The woman was from P.A which I assumed was Pennsylvania. When she asked about payment, I replied I use e-transfers which can only be used from a Canadian account [I am a Canadian] thus would only take a “certified bank cheque”. That ended the inquiry – no surprises there. The stilted language tipped me off as well as no mention of shipping in the 2 correspondences.

  68. Oh my I haven’t laughed so much in ages! You really are good at this creative scamming yourself!!! I wish now I’d kept my one of this ploy going with Chuck – whose wife had so loved my paintings but was to be kept completely in the dark about receiving one for her “emminent” Birthday. Chuck was obviously unable to purchase them through normal channels as he was far away at sea doing “secret radioactive “reseraching” into the ocean’s depths”. Understandable then – but he was panning to send one of his English based agents (the name is Bond?) to drop by my Studios to personally give me the check. I was quite enjoying myself by this stage but bottled on the possibility of actual physical contact with some unknown scammer. Having also been called by three different names during the course of our quite involved correspondence, I’d concluded Chuck was a bit of an amateur at the game too. I’m rather regretting now not finding out where it might have gone from there if I had played along. I mean how might that have worked I wonder?
    PS Does anyone actually really fall for this stuff – I mean seriously?

  69. It was a real validation to read your blog about art scammers. That has happened to me twice, and I noticed the same hallmarks: (1) the poor grammar and fractured syntax of someone for whom English is a second, or third, language; (2) about to leave the country for Canada, the Philippines, the middle east; or somewhere equally inaccessible, (3) there’s always a heartrending “story” attached to this transaction (recent or imminent death, divorce, loss) and (4) an excess of funds beyond the established price of the artwork, with a request to send back the excess. I also noted a lack of concern over the price of the art; no attempt to bargain or negotiate, which I see often in legitimate sales. My response was to do nothing. Just ignore it and let it drop. Neither of them followed up. I suppose they just moved on to other “marks”.

  70. I have been receiving these emails for over 10 years, although much less frequently then in the beginning. It shows that it still must be a certain amount of success. Once, the letter was quite well written, so although suspecting s scam, I actually wrote a polite reply. We got to the point where the writer gave me the address to which the art,- which was as a surprise gift for his wife in his newly decorated home- was to be sent. Thanks to google, I saw the home was a tiny bungalow in an industrial area and had something like 17 people living it! In s more recent email, the sender didn’t handle his or her email list correctly. It actually said Dear , and then had the usual letter below. It made me laugh, but then one realizes this means they have probably have huge stolen email lists, sigh, and that there probably is percentage of success. This is why it’s great, Jason, that you drove home the point to so many how nefarious these scammers are. Somewhere out there one of trusting art peers is innocently thinking they have a great sale.

  71. Jason,
    Thanks for sharing this – your response to this scam is hilarious! I usually respond to these scammers by going into a rant about poor artists just barely making a living as it is you F#%^, but this approach is probably more effective…
    You rock!

  72. This was a new one for me. The scammers tried to make me think I had been chosen for an award from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. I had heard of the award before and believed there was really such a thing but something in the grammar seemed off so I contacted the real website. What you’ll read first is a reply from the legitimate foundation saying they were sorry but it was a fake notification.

    Hi Bonnie,

    Thank you for getting in touch. We have been alerted to other emails similar to this one. It is a scam. Whoever is running this has taken language from the Joan Mitchell Foundation website and is imitating us but has no connection to us. We have contacted our legal representatives but in the meantime, I encourage you to ignore the email and do not respond to it. We’re very sorry for any confusion this has caused.

    Best wishes,
    Lilia

    On Friday, February 2, 2018, bonnie@bmasonart.com wrote:
    Dear Lilia,

    I received the email below today and wondered if there is a way to find out if it is a scam?

    Good morning Bonnie,
    I am pleased to inform you that your painting ( Simple Things ) been exhibited at the Cabell Gallery as presented you with an opportunity of emerging as a
    funding beneficiary in the ongoing Painters and Sculptors Grant Program.

    The Painters and Sculptors Grant Program was established in 1997 to acknowledge painters and sculptors creating work of exceptional quality through unrestricted career
    support. The first year of grants was awarded in 1998 and the Foundation has funded individual artists annually since that time.
    The Foundation currently awards up to $100,000 to hundred artists through a nomination process. Nominators from across the country are invited to recommend artists,
    at any stage in their career, who are currently under-recognized for their creative achievements, and whose practice would significantly benefit from the grant.

    In an anonymous process, a jury panel then selects the hundred awardees. Nominators and jurors include prominent visual artists, curators,
    and art educators who are dedicated to supporting artists.
    The Foundation is a charitable foundation that assists professional fine artists (painters, sculptors). The Painters and Sculptors Agency’s Board of Trustees and Officers all serve as volunteers in service to our community of artists. Assistance is given without expectation of repayment. One does not need to be a member of the Fellowship to receive assistance; neither does membership in the Agency’ Fellowship entitle one to assistance from the foundation.
    The Agency has absolutely no affiliation with city, state, or federal programs that provide “Artist Fellowships,” neither are they affiliated with other foundations that provide “Artist Fellowships.”
    Please note that the Agency cannot accept unsolicited applications or nominations. The Agency’s nominators are kept confidential

    Contact Attorney Brian Mead who will be corresponding with you and soliciting for you through the funding process.
    Brian Mead
    lawbrianmd@gmail.com or 786-480-7238
    You deserve this, take full advantage of it and enjoy the earnings of your labour to the dedication of Art.

    Stacey Hall
    Grants & Contracts Officer (Director)


    Lilia Sterling

    Artist Programs Associate, Joan Mitchell Foundation

    lsterling@joanmitchellfoundation.org | 212-524-0100 x203

    137 W. 25th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10001

    joanmitchellfoundation.org

  73. Some years ago we were contacted in a similar scam while selling a stove. We were pretty sure at the time it was a scam, and our suspicions were confirmed when the first set of “money orders” arrived and were for about 5 times the cost of the stove we were selling.

    My husband strung the scammer out for about 2 weeks and 3 sets of overnighted fake money orders before he got tired of the game and told the scammer to get lost.

  74. Whenever I receive a questionable email, I copy and paste the text directly into Google. These scammers aren’t as clever as they’re sometimes given credit. Typically, they’re lazy and don’t want to go to the trouble of composing an original scam. So they lift someone else’s scam letter off the Internet. If the text pops up in Google, the question of, “Is this a scam?” is answered instantly.
    Great column, Jason!

  75. Jason, Had some deep belly laughs as I read your masterpiece. I also took the time to read every comment, proving once again the bonding nature of our art community. I had a scammer contact me not too unlike all of the above. Stressed to them that I only take credit cards and after they disappeared. I contacted the FBI office and they informed me that as soon as they would pinned down methods of one scamming group another one pops up. They noted that most seem to filter into our country from Nigeria. I’m sure that’s not the only source…somehow they all seem to be on some rig on the ocean, how convenient. Ever grateful for your blog. Have shared it with many. Warmly, Barbara

  76. I went through the same scenario ! When I got the check I contacted Pamela and thanked her . I told her I was giving it to my brother who is a FBI agent and she would be dealing with him from now on. I never heard from her again. It did sting a bit to shred a 10k check even though it was fraudulent!

  77. Congratulations to all of the scamies for figuring out that they are being scammed. Just imagine all of the folks who fell for the ruse, lost money, and are embarrassed to tell anyone. It is very easy to get swept up in the potential purchase scam the FIRST TIME. It was the same story for me: it was a surprise gift and they could only send a check–no credit cards or billing process through PayPal was acceptable as their loved one regularly checks the credit card account. Luckily for me their overpayment check that they sent was rejected by my bank. I contacted the bank on the check and they verified that that check account and number had been used multiple times for the same scamming purpose. Now, I am a lot wiser and answer these “surprise-gift” emails with a stern but friendly ‘I will ONLY ACCEPT CREDIT CARD AND PAYPAL BILLING PAYMENTS’ and if they insist on only paying by check I will consider them as fraudulent.

    Thank you, Jason, for bring back this issue. With new people joining your blog every year, feel free to bring this issue up regularly as a public service ‘artist beware’ announcement and not so much as a long example of playing-along posting.

  78. All artists who are working in this art world have faced scam emails from fraud buyers in their life as same as my own. Here I would like to share a free online tool that will help all my artist friends to identify email quickly if it is a scam or not. Just visit – http://www.scamomatic.com/ and paste the body of your suspicious email and wait for a while to get the result. In very few cases, the authority will notify you later in your email address if the content of the suspicious email is a bit complicated.

    I have been using this tool for the last few years and have got a good result. You can try it. Hope it will work.
    Finally thanks Jason for sharing good stuff for us.

  79. I received a similar scam letter a few yrs. ago. Did take the check to my bank where they checked on the account and found it was either false or didn’t have enough funds in it and if I had cashed it the funds would have been taken out of my account at the bank. When I found this out I deleted the emails from my computer and thought no more about this.

    Last week I had another “scam” offer to purchase. This time it came through a legitimate organization I belong to. I checked with them and they said it was a scam. I have received additional emails from this supposed purchaser,
    don’t want to reply and go through all that you went through so I am just deleting them.

    Thank you for posting this and alerting all the artists out there. Very scary!!!
    Joy

  80. I’ve had a couple of these come my way. They were just so obvious and ham-fisted that I stopped responding after the second email – you know, the one that says they’re on a training mission in the North Atlantic and tries to set up the weird shipping arrangements. I have a friend who likes to string these people along for fun and post the responses to Facebook to entertain the rest of us, but I don’t have the patience.

    Thanks for posting this, though. It’s good info to have.

  81. I keep a file of my Scam email customers just to see how many I get that are worded exactly the same with the exception of the names and email addresses. It’s funny and sad at the same time.
    Thanks for keeping us all educated!

  82. I’ve gotten a few of those – the best was a guy from Russia who loved my work so much, he wanted to buy everything. Yeah.. That’d happen.

    The only one I got that went as far as the check being sent, though, was a Craigslist scam. Exact same M.O. though.

    Speaking of scams – there are also a rash of email scams going round about someone’s hacked your email account/gained access to your computer/website. And they are sending you the email to notify you about this and what it will cost you to get everything back, on your email account they have locked you out of. Which you are reading, in order to know what they want. Duh. 😉

    I get about 10 of those a week, lately.

  83. Hahaha…
    I received a similar proposal. Urgent annoversary gift, traveling etc.I basically told them that they’d have to use PayPal/credit card online and I’d ship the art and needed a legitimate address. I told him to fill out the information and make a payment online.
    It spooked me they wanted to send someone to my home, a private currier, to get the art.
    So I let it slide without giving out personal information.
    I emailed him a week later and asked did he still want the art for his wife.
    He said no, he must have been drunk.
    Lol

  84. Your scenario was hilarious, Jason. The first time this happened to me several years ago I decided to play along. They wanted to send their shipper to my studio to pack up the painting personally (I guess they didn’t notice it was only 8″x10″). The price was only $200, but they sent a $1,000 check from a New Jersey bank even though they were presumably in Scotland.

    I took the check to my bank, but instead of depositing it, I explained to the bank manager what was happening and she reported it to the banking fraud folks so that the information would go to all of the banks.

    Since then, I decided that I didn’t want to take a chance on actually meeting up with a fraudster. So, like you, I reply politely in case it’s a legitimate contact. But as soon as they suggest the check scheme, I simply say that my company’s policy is to accept credit cards or PayPal only, and the company (which is just me) does not allow any exceptions to that policy. After that I never hear from then again.

  85. I get these every so often, same pattern of awkward grammar, exaggerated urgency, impersonal style, lack of interest in learning about me or the painting. Same weird locations and logistics…one would think that the North Atlantic is stuffed with oceanographers from shore to shore. One offered (before we’d even discussed payment) to pay with a cashier’s check…what actual purchaser ever does that? I later read that fake cashier’s checks take a little longer for banks to detect.

    An artist friend once got as far as going to Western Union with a wad of cash to send to the “shipper”, and the W.U. clerk said “whoa, this looks fishy.” So a tip of the hat to Western Union on that one.

    At this point I don’t even reply to the first email from these scammers. If it looks like it COULD be real I google everything that can be googled. If it still looks possibly real, I’ll engage but will advise the person early on that I only process payment for the exact amount, not over or under.

    Although I think my website is so great it should be teeming with eager purchasers 24/7, the truth is that it is very rare for someone to just happen upon it and initiate a purchase…so that alone is a red flag.

    Thanks for the great story Jason, I’d never have the patience to do all that but it was a great read.

  86. I applaud you for your tenacity in dealing with “Pamela”. I usually just delete the email. It was extremely interesting to see how far these scammers are willing to go to get the artist to complete the transaction. Thanks for sharing this!

  87. same thing I received email about buying two painting I kept the conversation going for three four time then I gave up and said I take only credit card or pay pal then never heard from them thanks for sharing

  88. Ha ha, I just had one of these last month. The language is usually a give away, I loved your scammers phrase near the end of your correspondence “have the bank do the needful thing” really? I actually did suggest Pay Pal though in my heart I knew it was a too good to be true scenario. My next letter to them included the link to the scam checker site here. https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/don-t-be-fooled-by-email-art-scams-how-to-spot-and-avoid-fraud
    I also said that I would be happy to apologize in person if I had the good fortune to meet them.

    They did not respond but the following week I had another letter from a new scammer saying that she wanted to surprise her husband who had contacted me. LOL

  89. Jason, your article hit home with me. I’ve had it happen twice, although slightly differently. The first was as you said and I insisted the check clear the bank before I proceeded. The check bounced and I was out the NSF fee. The scammer actually called me and told me what he was going to do to me. I just hung up and never heard from him again. I was a little unnerved, as was my husband but nothing ever came of it.
    The second was a bit different and I lost some money because of it…lesson learned and recovered from. The second scammer sent me a Wells Fargo money order. I always thought money orders had to be obtained through the business. I had no idea it could be a fake. It was an extremely good fake and fooled many. I had failed to verify it with Wells Fargo. Just a word to the wise to those who read this….VERIFY! Hope this helps.

  90. Thank you so much for such an interesting and useful article. I love how you went far to find out what were the scammer’s ways and plans. It is so good to have policies in place of what you should do no matter what are the excuses and stories of the scammers.

  91. Beware of a new scam.

    I used to get scams similar to Jason very frequently but they have slowed down in recent months. I have, however, recently gotten an inquiry about someone that wanted to hire me to do Graphic Design work which I rarely do anymore. I have only one profile posted on-line related to that and in the several years I’ve had it on the site I’ve never gotten an inquiry. The person that contacted me said they found me on-line but they didn’t go through the site where I have a profile posted. That was the first clue they were up to something.

    They wanted design work on a 24 page catalog and logo and were happy to pay my exorbitantly high fees. They didn’t want to use PayPal or Square-up though. They wanted to pay by check. After stringing them on for a while I ended the ruse but it was entertaining for a week or two. It’s not a huge step to think that many fine artists have had careers in Graphic Design so if you are approached with a scam like this, be aware.

  92. Dear Jason

    I was checking my Spam folder and found the exact same email… The name used was Sally Riding from the UK and she wrote in terrible English she was observing her wife looking at my web site… Well, for crying out loud!

    Thanks for all the time you take to write these posts!

  93. Dear Jason, I really loved your post on art scams. And not a minute too soon: I’ve got this “gem” in mail today:

    Hi
    I am interested in your works,can you email me your mobile number,so that i could text/contact you,moving on.
    Thanks
    Matt

    Total scam!
    Best, Inga

  94. Hi Jason:

    This person just this morning sent me the same email come on! Same name and everything! Thank you for your blog post on this topic! You are helping both artists and dealers!

  95. Just a quick note of thanks for the warning on this one! There’s now a mutation for graphic designers from Michael Matthew with Great Elms furniture looking for a logo and brochure while he fights newly diagnosed lung cancer. If I had not seen this on your blog, I wouldn’t have known what to look for. Thank you!!

  96. Jason,
    Thanks for the laugh! I got this same email last month, my reply to them was ” How about you quit trying to scam people and get a real job?” But…. I like your reply waayyyyyy better! Hilarious dialogue! thanks for taking your time and wasting theirs. And for educating us all on how this scam works. Very helpful, as always. Tracy

  97. Funny, Pamela also wanted one of my named pieces as a surprise gift, but dumb enough to send another to my gallery mate….ugh, these art scams can be not only irritating but a complete waste of time and of hopes for a real sale. Enjoyed your beautiful exchanges. I just said she’d have to go on my website and use paypal and otherwise I would not be able to help her and have a lovely day, Pamela….lol thanks for the enlighted discussion. Marylu

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