Ask A Gallery Owner | Art Email Scams

I received the email message below, ( starting with “good day to you”) a few days ago.  My first reaction was excitement, but one friend (artist) tells me it is a fraud.

Have you experienced anything like this being fraudulent?

I am not sure how to proceed.  Of course, I will not send her any money for shipping or anything else.

Thanks for any insights you have.


Thanks for the email, and yes, unfortunately, this is a classic fraud. If you Google the wording from the email I am willing to bet you will find other artists who have received the same email. We received a similar email  several years ago and, though I suspected it was fraud, went far enough into the process to actually receive the cashier’s check. The amount was for more than the purchase price agreed upon, and, of course, when I checked with the bank, they assured me the check was a forgery. The “client” asked me to send the difference between the sale price and the check amount as a wire transfer, which, of course, I did not do.

This is a particularly cruel fraud because we all want so desperately to sell online, but the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true . . .” certainly would apply here.

We do make sales from the website all the time, and here is what I’ve observed about legitimate sales vs. fraud attempts:

  • Legitimate clients will usually provide a telephone number and other contact info.
  • Legitimate inquiries are usually brief – a request for one or two specific bits of information – availability or price, for example.
  • Fruads seem to offer a lot of unnecessary explanations and stories.
  • Fraudulent emails are usually rife with questionable grammar – the email you received is a classic example.
  • Fraudulent emails will usually talk about shipping arrangements having already been made, etc.
  • In a fraudulent situation the pieces they are interested in often change without any explanation. If you reply to an email, don’t send back the original email, and ask for them to confirm which pieces they are interested in. More likely than not, the pieces will changed. I suspect that these emails are perpetrated by someone who is sending out thousands of emails – they won’t have any idea which pieces they asked you about originally, and they won’t go to the trouble to go back and figure it out, they’ll just go back to your site and pick new ones.

Of course, you still would hate the idea of ignoring a legitimate collector. My solution is to email back and say you would be more than willing to discuss the purchase and ask for a phone number so you can talk about the pieces. I never hear back from the frauds when I ask for a phone number.

Original Email

> Good day to you.
> I am so excited that I came across of your work on internet search,I am interested in purchasing these creative artworks from you…………………
> Adam and Eve,Second Chance- A New Life,Alternate Dimension and Notice
> Let me know their various prices.and how much discounts are you going to give?I will be happy to have these selected artworks hung in our new home in South Africa.As well,I want you to take out the shipping cost.I have been in touch with a shipping firm that will be shipping other house decoratives.
> We are traveling from our Seattle home to our new apartment as soon as possible.On Paying for the artworks,I will be glad to pay you with a Money Order or Cashier`s check in US funds that can be easily cashed at your local bank,please let me know on how to proceed for the payment of the creative artworks.
> I will await your advise on how to proceed.Have a wonderful day.
> Take care,

Have you experienced similar emails? Did you respond? What happened? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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  1. Yes, we got a similar scam email, it claimed to be from a Shirley Truman, and American living in Bosnia. I Googled her name and came upon a list of names associated with a shipping scam directed at artist websites. SO, I responded that we ship Fedex only , and never heard another word!

    Guess it shouldn’t surprise me that there a scammers out there preying on artists’ hopes, but I hope they meet with FAILURE!!


  2. Thank you for the post re: frauds. I have a new website and have not yet gotten such a contact, it’s nice to be prepared. I greatly appreciate your webinars, although I need to “catch up” the ones I haven’t listened to yet. I know they will offer excellent advice.

  3. Thank you Jason, your message is a good explanation, and helps me to be ‘armed’ with the understanding of such scams.
    I too have recieved this kind of message. I would only work with someone who is inclined to work (like you say) over the phone, and with MY way of working out all the details.


  4. Add me to the list of those that got almost the same email, including the location of living in Seattle and moving to South Africa! Fortunately I didn’t waste the time to respond. You’re doing us artists a great service in getting the word out about these scammers. I am looking forward to following your blog and more great information.

  5. I get these all the time. Sadly, artists and other people (my daughter sells Mary Kay and has also received these emails) must be taking the bait; otherwise wouldn’t the scammers figure out that their awkward salutations (“good day dear”) and language were ineffective?

  6. I have received four of these e-mails. They all involved overseas delivery and bad grammar. Typically they have a stateside agent who would pick up the art piece and take care of all the shipping, including insurance and export fees. The buyer claims to have lost things through FEDEX and UPS so he has his own preferred shipper he would like me to use. If I would get the shipper’s quote the buyer would send me a check to cover it. Of course the cashiers check was an over-payment and they hoped I would return the difference to them. I called the bank it was drawn on and they told me it was a fake. I handed it over to postal authorities as mail fraud. They seemed interested but I never heard back from them. In another instance the buyer wanted me to accept three different credit card charges for payment. I insisted he go through Pay Pal and that was the last I heard from him. After you’ve see a few of these you can recognize and delete them immediately.

  7. I recieve one of these letters about once a month. Recently one offered to buy 3 paintings. I told them to go through my gallery but they Fedexed me an overnight check anyway. Curious I tool it to the bank and told them I thought it was a fake check. The banker showed me the numerous problems the check had. Multiple typefonts was the most obvious sign, the check number listed 3 times, and the date listed twice. She called the bank and the business (in financial trouble) listed did exsist but the account didn’t. The bank kept the original check and I have a copy as a reminder. I always tell my online customers that I can invoice via PAYPAL as it protects both the buyer and the purchaser.

  8. Thanks for this; artists are the target of a surprising number of scams considering that such a small percent of the population are artists! The money laundering scams seem to have been tailored to fit nearly every situation now. Very good idea to send a reply that doesn’t give them the details of their original email, and ask for their phone number, if in doubt about an inquiry’s legitimacy.

    Once I put my work online I started getting a few weird emails, often by vanity galleries in other countries. Even if the gallery was a legitimate business, it was still not a good deal for artists. I’ve also gotten messages from people saying they were an artists’ representative. They were evasive when I asked questions. Most likely just trying to get some free prints, and/or would spring some new, expensive requirement on artists who got hooked into it.

  9. I received an order from a supposed gallery owner in Japan. I googled the name, and nothing showed up. There were several misspellings, and there was the “I have shipping all set up” inclusion. I was hesitant, and have yet to gather up the work she wanted because it just struck me as odd. And as you said, there was no other contact information. I will recontact her and ask for phone contact info. Thank you.

  10. Red flags for the John Woodruff scam included poor use of the English language, some urgency in delivery of the painting, and a greeting regarding my health or how my day is going. Also, my email box (Apple) flagged it as questionable. I also Googled the name on his email address, “fountain energy groups,” and no such group came up. All of these suggested that it was fraud. Thanks, Jason for confirming it.

  11. @Nancy – I got one from Shirley Truman as well. – it seemed pretty fishy but I was not sure. I eventually ignored it hoping it was a fraud – glad to find out that it was. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Yesterday I got an inquiry from a “Julia Simpson”. Julia’s email address however was Possible, but raised some questions for me. She said she was interested in one of my pieces, and wanted to know if it was available. The grammar was a tad too formal, and I was not so sure, but I responded as if it was legit, and mentioned I would accept payment through either Paypal or Square. She then wanted to know about my inspiration. But, did not mention anything about payment. I asked for her address so I could calculate the shipping cost. And again asked if she would like to make arrangements through Paypal or Square. I again was not feeling like all was on the up and up, so I decided to do a little research. Nothing much came up with Julia Simpson on a google search, but entering the email address led me to several past attempts to scam artists. They would converse back and forth by email, and then arrange to send a bank check, which, …ooops!, would be for too much. No problem. Cash the check and send me the difference along with the painting. Glad I saved myself the time and trouble of going much farther with this. Clearly there is a formulaic approach to how these people work. Today I got the email that explained they were moving, she was out of town, her husband didn’t trust Paypal, he would send a check…..Yeah. no thanks.

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