I have been receiving artist email scams from all around the world for over 15 years. These scams all take the same approach. Generally they state that they want to purchase work from your website, they are vague as to what work, they involve the buyer relocating from one part of the world to another, they aren’t concerned about the price of the work, their husband will send the check, they will have their shipper (who is moving all their household items to their new residence) contact you to make arrangements to pick-up the artwork to be shipped to their new home. They also include lots of extra personal information about the buyer’s sister, her upcoming wedding, a near miscarriage, a broken leg, a sick child and they are always in a rush to complete the transaction… well you get the point.
Even though these scams have been around for a long time, I still receive emails and calls from other artists asking me to review an email they’ve received regarding an online purchase of their work. These scams work because they play to our base desires, as artists, to have our work acknowledged and purchased. Simple, if it seems too good to be true, trust me, it is. Even when I explain that the email, they just received, is a scam and not a real inquiry into the purchase of their work, I inevitably get push back from the artist questioning my motives for suggesting that they were on the cusp of being a scam victim.
These scams generally play out that the buyer will send a Cashier’s Check in an amount substantially higher than the retail price of the artwork being purchased. The buyer will state that their shipper will contact you soon with instructions on how the artwork will be picked up. When the shipper calls they will instruct the artist to send the overage, from the Cashier’s Check, to them via Western Union. This amount is necessary for them (the shipper) to schedule the pick-up of the art work. The artist is scammed when they deposit the Cashier’s Check and withdraw cash to send to Western Union. Cash sent to Western Union, that has been received on the other end by the recipient, cannot be reversed. Two week later the artist gets notice from their bank that the Cashier’s Check was no good (suprise!). The deposit is reversed and the artist is out the real cash they sent through Western Union, and there is nothing they can do about it. Again, this is a scam, there is no buyer, there is no shipper and the check is not real.
I recently received, yet another, scam email from a person claiming to be a women from New York that would soon be relocating to London and she wanted to purchase some work for her new home there. This time I thought I would play along with the scam for a while to see if I could actually get this person to send me a check to see how convincing the check might look. The back and forth emails played out just as I’ve described above. The piece she was interested in, from my website, was a $300 retail piece, she asked what the price was, I told her $2400. A few more emails and a few days later I received a Cashier’s Check from her husband in London in the amount of $3900.
Being in business for as long as I have and being like most people I’ve seen thousands of checks, Money Orders and Cashier’s Check, I have to say that the check I received was very convincing. It had several security features, a see through watermark, security printing on the back and micro printing along the top border, seems to be a real check…I think it would convince most people. But wait, there are other things to look at on this check that point to it being a fake document. See more below:
Below is a mark-up of the various areas of this check that are inconsistent with a real Cashier’s Check:
In an attempt to make the check seem legitimate and to reconcile the J.P.Morgan Chase Bank routing #, there is a statement in the lower left corner that says, “Issued by Integrated Payments Systems Inc., Englewood, Colorado. JP Morgan Chase, N.A. Denver, Colorado” A quick Google search will show the Integrated Payments Systems is a real company that processes and prints online payments and payrolls. You will also find that the use of this company’s service has been linked to various online scams.
A few last remarks…This may surprise you, it did me. I contacted Colonial Bank and told them I was preparing to post a blog about artist online scams and could they share any information they might have on the subject. Two things they said struck me. First, the paper of the fake Cashier’s Check is real and can be obtained by anyone from the web, this is why it looked so convincing, upon first glance. Second, and this is the big one, the person at Colonial Bank said it was their policy and most all other bank’s policy to either cash or deposit “all” checks as long as the customer has an account balance at least equal to the amount of the check. I will quote the gentleman from Colonial Bank…”If the check is returned back to us as a fake we simply reverse the transaction with our customer and our customer is responsible for any negative balance.” I think this is the reason these scams work, the checks look real, the banks will negotiate them and it can take up to 3 weeks to clear a Cashier’s Check. This is why the scammers are always in a hurry.
Finally, if you receive one of these scam emails simply paste the sender’s email address into google and search, chances are very good you will find dozens if not hundreds of posts in various places on the web about others who have been contacted by the same person.
I know this was a long post, thanks for sticking with me and I hope you pass this along next time you hear of an artist friend who’s all excited about the email they just recieved from their website about a big online purchase from someone who’s moving to a new house somewhere in the world.