Art buying scams, beware!
Thanks Maidy Morhous for sharing this scam story with us.
Scam, scam, always a scam!
I am by nature leery. Just seems to be in my genes after years of dealing with shady art dealers, galleries, etc…. but of late it includes private individuals seeking my artwork. I have a website which allows Galleries and individuals throughout the world to view my bronze sculptures; this is a good thing, but tends to open one to many who are not so good.
Over the years, I have had numerous scams by individuals who through my website email asking about a piece of artwork for purchase. My radar goes up immediately when they refer to my artwork as merchandise, paintings, or any other term but sculpture. It also is raised when they immediately want to purchase, ask nothing about the piece, myself, etc… If the syntax is off in the sentences I am also on alert; albeit if I were in a foreign country trying to buy merchandise off the internet, or for that matter in person, I would have a heck of a time myself, thus I try to overlook and remain positive. The buyer is always correct right, and being cynical does not get one anywhere!
This past month I was approached by a woman this time from New Jersey, whose English was obviously not her first language, but she asked about the sculpture, size, and would I tell what inspired me when I created it. She then let a few weeks go by; getting back that she was out of the country. She asked to purchase the piece and her husband would be sending me a check. When I told her to use Paypal, she indicated that her husband preferred to send a company check; to which I told her it would need to clear before I would ship the Artwork. She did not object. I also included the shipping in the price to avoid the previous scams of “My shipper will pick up and please reimburse them for the shipping that will be added to the amount paid”. She again did not object. This past week I received a check drawn on a very legitimate company in Vermont. Funny thing the buyer lives in New Jersey, the company in Vermont – mind you I am aware of people who work from their homes by computer in one state for a company in another. The thing that really set off alarms in my brain was that the envelope I received with the check was sent from a different individual out of Tennessee, for an amount over the given price ($1,570 more; the bronze was priced at $3,400).
I emailed the buyer and told her the situation curious what she would say. She told me her husband had made a mistake, and please take what was owed and send back the difference. I thought I would wait until it clears and then do as she said, since the check looked very legit.
I walked into my bank and explained the situation, to which the bank president smiled. He told me this was a classic scam, which I definitely had thought all along, but had hoped differently~ He proceeded to call the bank in which the check was drawn on and indeed the account number was legit. The bank called the company the check was drawn on and the story unfolded; The account had been closed for over a year because of fraudulent activity, the individual whose name was on the envelope that the check came in was in jail.
What my bank told me was interesting; the check was very legitimate looking, but if they had cashed and advanced me the money, and told me to wait a few days for it to clear before shipping merchandise (much less returning excess cash), that it could take up to two ( 2) weeks before the company would have found out that the funds had been drawn on a closed account (or even if it were an active account) and put a stop on payment, at which point I am responsible and the cash is pulled from my account. If I had shipped the sculpture after waiting and being told it had cleared; I would not only be out of the sculpture, but the purchase money, and the additional money I sent back to the buyer!
Artists seem to be pulled in by this sort of scam continually; as for the future I will trust my instincts and not count on anything until it’s a done deal – geez that sounds cynical, but vigilance goes a long way~
I reported the fraudulent check/scam to the Federal Trade Commission, and hope that by writing this blog if it does nothing else, it makes other artists aware!!
Maidy Morhous 11/2015
It seems the most reliable payment method is PayPal. Credit cards and checks can be forged but with PayPal, the money actually goes into the seller’s account BEFORE they ship the artwork. Good luck out there, it’s a shark tank!