For artists just starting out, or for those who’ve just got round to getting a website (where have you been all this time?) it’s flattering to be contacted by someone wanting to buy your work. And if they say they’ll arrange shipping, and don’t quibble about the price, that’s even better, isn’t it?
Sadly however, there’s a good chance if you receive an email like this, it’s a scam.
Not so long ago, scammers were targetting those selling cars online, or other high-value goods, like watches or antiques. Now they’ve latched on to the unfortunate reality that many artists are not over-endowed with business savvy.
How does it work? They send you money, so that must be ok, surely?
Well, they send you a cheque, but then they pester you to transfer money to their shipping agent. It’s always their agent. If you suggest one of your own, you’ll probably never hear from them again. They’ll keep on pestering you to make a transfer, usually by a money-transfer agent like Western Union (who are completely legit) to pre-pay the shipping agent.
The scam relies on you doing this before the cheque has had time to clear. Because it won’t. You send the money – a few hundred pounds – to the shipping agent, and then your bank contacts you to say the cheque bounced.
So they don’t get your work, they get your shipping money. And that’s why they keep sending you emails to request the shipping money transfer, and will keep on pestering you!
How can you tell an email you’ve received is likely to be fraudulent?
1 – They don’t ask any questions about your work, or request images.
2 – They insist on their choice of shipping agent – who you won’t be able to find on a search engine cos they don’t exist!
3 – They send you a cheque for more money than the piece is on sale at, and ask you to send the balance via a money transfer agent.
Of course there are lots of other scams, and plenty of ways those born with a surfeit of scruples will try to exploit artists, but this is a common one.
If you’re an artist, or you think you’ve been targetted in this way, I recommend you have a look at this site, and others like it. There’s plenty of advice on phony galleries, vanity publishing, email and phishing scams, and lots more.
It’s a shame operators on the seedier side of the internet are suckering artists out of money in this way, and I hope by encouraging artists to be a little less credulous, and a little more alert, fewer of these scams will succeed. Let me know of other scams you hear about.
Happy selling to artists everywhere!