Recognizing Email Scams

Schemes and Scams Aimed at Artists

Part 2: Recognizing Email Scams (Find Part One, here.)

Always consider all the details of a deal before you commit.
Always consider all the details of a deal before you commit.
We would all like to see our work sell and achieve recognition. Con men have been very busy trying to exploit these ambitions. There has been a great increase in the number of scams aimed at artists and most of that increase is in the form of emails. Our best defense against this onslaught is a thorough knowledge of these scams. We must learn how to recognize these threats and how to protect ourselves.
Be alert to questionable writing and origins of emails: Question all emails from prospective buyers especially those with misspelled words and poor grammar. Be extremely skeptical of any offers from remote countries, especially Nigeria. It is best to delete them immediately.
Beware of blind offers: Any requests to purchase artwork originating from anyone who does not know you and is not familiar with your work should be considered a scam. Delete immediately. Do not reply, open any attachments or click on any links.
Beware of unconventional transaction requests: Be very skeptical of any request involving unconventional payment or shipping. Also, the lack of solid identity or good contact information are a signs of a possible scam.
Never accept payment for more than the sale price: Never agree to accept more for a transaction than the agreed price of the artwork. Refuse this under all conditions. This is simply a way to get you to pass a counterfeit method of payment, usually a counterfeit money order or cashiers check. The buyer wants you to receive more than the sale price and return the balance. It's an old trick and you will be left holding the bag.
Beware of emails not addressing you by name: Delete email offers that do not refer to you by name. This is another form of a "blind offer". Do not reply. 
Be certain payment has cleared: Never ship artwork until the payment has fully cleared the bank. This may take as long as several months. That may sound awkward. However, if the payment is fraudulent, you could be held responsible for the full amount. Consult your financial institution.
Never deal with anyone under pressure: A common technique for con men is to rush the transaction, saying it is very urgent. Demand the time necessary for a safe completion of the deal. Rushing you is just a way of giving you less time to investigate the transaction.
Beware if the address can not be verified: Use extreme caution if the shipping address can not be verified. This includes addresses that are actually mail services, drop off locations or P.O. boxes. Also, take care if the buyer is reluctant to speak on the telephone.
Take extra caution if a third party is involved: Become extremely skeptical of any sale when the artwork is purchased by one party and it is to be delivered to a third party. This also includes transactions in which the art is purchased by one party and is to be picked up by a third party.
Be skeptical with sales involving a third party, foreign transactions, and addresses that cannot be verified.
Be skeptical with sales involving a third party, foreign transactions,
and addresses that cannot be verified.

Beware of sales involving a third party's credit card: Back away from any credit card transaction when the name on the card is one other that that of the buyer. 

Be skeptical regarding sales that involve a foreign country: Take extra precautions regarding sales that require shipment to a foreign country. This is especially so if the shipping is to a country other than that of the buyer. If this is part of the original email, it is a good sign of a scam.
Never email important personal information: This is a general precaution that applies to all email communication. Emails can be disguised to look like they are from trusted, established corporations and financial institutions. Con men have become very good at this. Trusted businesses are well aware of the scams that abound on the Internet. None of them will ask for your important personal information by email. Anytime you question this, call the business to verify the request.
None of this information should be discouraging in any way. Most of the people we deal with are straight forward and ready to do honest business. However, we can never take anything for granted. When selling artwork, we must assume the role business men and women. We live in a world made smaller by amazing technology and some of our methods of business have changed. Along with these changes come a few threats and that means new cautions must be employed. Remember, staying informed and using good business sense is our best defense.
Paul Sullivan 

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About Paul Sullivan

After a long career in advertising art, Paul Sullivan is now a full-time watercolor artist. A graduate of the University of Toledo and the Toledo Museum School of Design, Paul has a BA in Fine Art. He is a Silver Signature Member of the Arizona Watercolor Association and a Signature Member of both the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society and the Watercolor Society of Alabama. Paul's work has been featured in exhibitions throughout the U.S. and in China. Visit his website → View all posts by Paul Sullivan →