Oh joy! Another art scam email. This time I only responded with a “Ha-ha”. I have used earthier language in the past. One time I actually asked him (or her – give the sexes equal time) if he ever got tired of scamming people and he responded “No.” Should have saved the email.
Email Scammers are just the latest and most sophisticated in a steady stream of those who see artists as an easy target. There are scammers every where, but I am only talking about art.
Back in the day (sorry but I still like that phrase) thieves stole art. I almost considered it a compliment when one bright, sunny day in Charleston, South Carolina, the only things stolen from a family member’s car were my paintings.
Now art thieves hide in the cloud (computer cloud that is), sucking up your banking information, and any other private data they can squeeze money from while you sit there totally brain dead as to how easily it can be done. Although by now you are probably well aware.
When the internet first started, we developed our websites hoping to have not just a local but an international presence.
Hot damn Apple! Make me famous!
Who knew that technologically brilliant fingers were waltzing on their keyboards thousands of miles away on programs designed to separate you from your cash. We open an email and there is a complete stranger whose wife LOVES our art and he wants to immediately buy a piece as a SURPRISE for their forthcoming ANNIVERSARY!
The first time it happened I fell for it. The bank check was written and received by me. The bank took it while I blithely sent off my art as requested. While also paying some shipping charges (so long ago I have forgotten or repressed the details). I was congratulating myself on being a great businesswoman. It didn’t take two weeks for that great looking check to bounce. I was lucky in not having to pay additional bank charges, Fortunately my humiliation was observed only by me and my husband.
That was decades ago and the scammers have only grown more sophisticated as technology has helped them in ways no one could have foreseen. Gone are the days that tech savvy people could take a world leader’s head and photoshop it -cut and paste-on to another body “proving” he was really there. Child’s play compared with what can be done now. Though I wouldn’t mind seeing my body morph 40 years younger. So trust but verify is smart. But that can be difficult.
So back to art scams. When I did art shows I was comfortable taking checks from strangers. Amazingly I can only remember a time or two when the checks bounced. Credit cards worked fine as well and I think they still do. That 4% you part with is a lot of incentive for companies to maintain vigilance (but they’re scammers of a different ilk). And of course cash is still king to me.
I have never been burned selling one to one.
If you want to know more about the current state of internet scamming all you need to do is look up art scammers on Google. Have a glass of wine first.
To paraphrase a lot of it … you will eventually become aware of the emails being a bit weird. They are very impersonal. The names have no online attachments- no Facebook, no Instagram, no mention of any contact points. They request paying not with credit card or PayPal, but rather cashier’s check or money order which will turn out to be fraudulent. They will ask you to send a chunk of the money to a third party shipping agent. They will ask for personal information.
They are improving their grammar and spelling, but your gut feeling will be that they are not real clients.
Galleries don’t fall into the scam category, but they can be problematic anyway. If an artist cannot either check on their work once a month or have someone do it for them, they are wide open to having their art taken off walls when the walls are needed for a show.
Their paintings can be moved around during storage thus scratched or otherwise marred. Their paintings can go out on spec for any amount of time with no guarantee of sale. And of course there is shipping which is now outrageously expensive for larger pieces.
But by far the worst scammers is when your gallery goes bankrupt.
The scenario – your paint was sold (and you parted with 50%). The owner cannot pay the bills with what was made from your sale and the sales of the other artists and you are out of luck. So while the painting is sold to a happy client, you don’t receive any compensation.
True story about scammers.
My paintings hung in a gallery in North Carolina. One day got a phone call. The young woman identified herself as a sales associate (now unemployed) who was at the galley. She asked me if I would like her to take my six remaining paintings with her to her new gallery position in another city.
After I picked myself off the floor, I asked her what happened. Owners couldn’t keep the business afloat so they left in the middle of the night. The sheriff’s department bolted the door so that inventory items could not be removed- confiscated you see- and used to pay the people who were owed money.
Of course, the state sales tax came first, followed by monies owed to the city, building owner, etc. Then way down on the list to the artists. Of course there would be a lawsuit (as if the gallery owners had any money) and after consulting with our lawyer, I bowed out if that notion.
Apparently if you are a part of a lawsuit like that you might have to appear physically in court – like 6 hours away. And if you won you might get 10 cents on the dollar. So strike it up to lesson learned. And did I mention there is no tax relief to you since as in donations you can only write off cost of materials? Things may have changed but I doubt it. So seller beware!
Another bankruptcy of a California gallery during a severe economic downturn resulted in the owner tearfully calling me to apologize.
I found myself consoling her.
Here’s my latest available painting: Wild on the Beach (11×14 acrylic on canvas)