Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May's Tip of the Month.... beware of Art scammers!

I had a 'very nice chatty enquiry' by e mail this morning asking if my painting 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, We Love You' was still available for sale.

The name of the sender seemed familar  and my suspicions were confirmed when I googled the name Betty Hammond but just in case it was a legit enquiry from someone with the same name I replied that it had sold a year or two ago at the CWA exhibition but that limited edition prints of the painting were available. I was interested to see  what the reply would be.  Almost immediately I then received a second e mail.

I have decided to share the e mail with you all as I hope, that by me doing so, it might help raise awareness and stop someone from being duped by scams such as this.

This is the e mail I received.... I have highlighted in italics the key areas which everyone should be very wary of if they receive an enquiry and will explain why these should be red flags to you below.

" Dear Ona,

Thanks for your prompt reply. I'm interested in a Limited edition print matted and framed.(1) 

Unfortunately, I'm on my way to France on an official trip (2) (I'm a marketing Executive) and won't be back for another two weeks.

If you'd like to know, I'm relocating to South Africa soon (2) and I'm trying to gather some good stuff for my new abode.

However, I'll have to notify my shipper (3) who's helping me move my stuff to get set for the pick up of the piece from your place as I MIGHT be delayed depending on how things goes.

In the mean time, kindly get back to me with your contact address and phone# so I can get a check prepared and have it mailed out to you right away. (4)

Betty Hammond"
Scams like this are the most common scams that hit artists. They presume we are eager for a sale, and move quickly, if we let them.

So What are the red flag warnings you should look for in an enquiry?
  • The buyer chooses the most expensive option and one that is awkward/costly to ship (1)
  • The buyer is in one location, the art is going to another location, and the money comes from a third location (2)
  • The buyer selects their own shipping company or private shipper (3)
  • There is a sense of urgency and the buyer wants to move quickly. They also issue you a cheque, money order or bank draft from a bank you've never heard of before (4)
The scammer finds an artist's website or other on line marketing site. They will typically pick artwork which is priced highly and/or one that is heavy or awkward to ship. They then pose as a buyer, asking to purchase the work. 

They will offer to take care of the shipping themselves, though their own shipping company or private shipper. 

They will often, but not always, say that they will pay you for the shipping and the art. These shipping cost will almost always be much higher than a standard courier. 

The scammer will very quickly send you a cheque, money order or bank draft for the item plus shipping fee. After you have confirmed that you have cashed the payment, they will tell you that they have had some horrible life event and need the money refunded ASAP.  Because the shipping company never picked up the artwork, you refund the sale. 

The scammer receives your cheque and cashes it before your own bank  realizes that the cheque, money order or bank draft from the scammer is a fake and removes the money from your account. You have now lost the money, with very little possible chance of recovering it!

So How do you protect yourself?  

If you are being asked to ship an item, always use a known courier company and choose that company yourself. You can always give the buyer a couple options so they can choose the fee and delivery style that best suits them. But be in control of the shipping.

Request payment via a credit card using an online payment option like Pay Pal which provide both buyers and sellers with added protection. Although paypal will take a percentage of your sale, it is much safer for you. Any legitimate buyer should not mind paying via credit card because it also provides them with insurance if their item doesn't arrive. Do not accept cheques via mail unless you and the buyer are willing to wait until you know the cheque has cleared before shipping the item. This will typically scare away any fake buyers and encourage real ones to pay with a credit card. 

Always conduct yourself professionally and do not be afraid to lose a sale.

The scammer might send out thousands of e mails like the one above.... most of the time it will be noticed for what it is and ignored. They will continue though because it only takes that 1 in a thousand person who doesn't realise and sends them money to make it worth the scammer's effort. Don't be that person. Be aware!

information source credits: http://stopartscams.blogspot.ca/2013/04/scam-email-betty-hammond.html https://sites.google.com/site/bogusartfair/buyer-shipping-scams
and http://www.artquest.com/artquest/scammer-names.html
Thank you all for your valuable information.


  1. Thank goodness I am not in a position to be scammed Ona!

  2. Excellent post, Ona. If you don't mind, I want to share this post on facebook for the benefit of other artists.

  3. yes, please feel free to share

  4. Hi, Ona, thank u for sharing the informable and very helpful info! Your blog always helps me and inspires me.
    Kind regards, Sadami

  5. How sweet of you to share this information Ona. I don't get hit with this type (my art isn't so desireable LOL) but I get the ones that say "this is my 5th attempt to reach you about this most urgent matter" yeh, then if you open the email they've got you. After losing all of my hard drive once I learned to just trash these emails. Stay safe!

  6. Thank you for sharing this! I would also like to share this to others if it´s ok with you.

  7. yes, of course Catharina.

    Stay safe too Carol.

  8. Thanks for sharing this hard won wisdom!!