ArtSites Updates

(posted on 10 Jan 2008)

Happy New Year to Everyone!

I was reminded again yesterday by one of our ArtSites customers that there are some pretty creative scammers out there on the internet. I thought I would gather together my thoughts about what red flags to look for when dealing with people that reach you via your website.

Overseas Customers

Scammers like to keep an ocean between themselves and their victims. This reduces the number of angry victims that arrive on their doorsteps. It also makes the payment process more complex and opens up opportunities for the scam. London seems to be the purported home of a lot of these scammers. I think that the scams originate elsewhere but because London has a lot of immigration from all over the world, the scammer uses a London based relative or friend to facilitate the scam. London looks better than, say Abuja, Nigeria.

Purchase of Multiple Items

It seems to me that someone who wants to purchase multiple works, all at once, without having seen a single item in person is suspicious. Purchasing art online without ever having seen the work in person is a risk for the purchaser. Do the colors in the photo really reflect the work? It's hard to gauge size from a photo even if you have the dimensions. If you found that you liked an artist's works that you see on their website, you would likely only purchase a single work as a test and then purchase more if you still liked it when you got the first into your hands. Maybe there are people that will spend several thousand dollars to buy 3 works based on a 2" by 3" web image but I think that these are rare people!

Complex Payment Schemes

If the buyer suggests a payment mechanism other than using or well known credit cards, that should be the biggest red flag of them all. and credit cards are not scam-proof but both provide an arbitration mechanism that tries to protect both the sell and buyer (although they have a vested interest in the buyer being happy so that they will use that payment method again).

A popular scam is based on the mistaken notion that a "cashiers cheque" is guaranteed cash. While I don't profess to be an expert on the banking system, I do know that there are forms of these cheques that can bounce, and if drawn on an oversees bank, may take as along as 30 days to bounce. That's a 30 day window in which the scammer has you thinking that they've paid for your works. Usually the cashiers cheque is only part of the scam. That would only get them your artwork and would not pay their rent. The scam usually involves a triangular payment scheme that beings something like this:

"My brother owes me $5000 so I would like him to send you a cashiers cheque for $5000, you deposit it and send me the balance over the $3000 artwork purchase price via Western Union."

So you get the cheque, deposit it, send $2000 via Western Union and then 30 days later the $5000 cheque bounces. Once the money is picked up at Western Union, it's gone with no recourse to get it back. So you are out your artwork, shipping costs and $2000 in cash.

I'm sure that there are lots of other imaginative payment scams out there too.

Scammers Build Confidence Before Attacking

Internet scammers try to gain your confidence by exchanging several email messages with you. These message contain a lot of unverifiable personal information and try to paint themselves as a sympathetic character. In a legitimate transaction, people are primarily going to want to discuss the product and build up their own confidence that the product is right for them, not try to build up your confidence in the buyer. When the buyer doesn't seem all that concerned about the product that you are selling them, you've got to figure that their mind is on some other part of the transaction.

Be Wary of New Customers

It's unfortunate, but like everything in life, you need to be careful with people you don't have experience with. It's not that you shouldn't interact with them but you do have too keep an eye out for various red flags that they might be trying to take advance of you. What the internet brings is a much wider range of people, ideas and ways to interact. Unfortunately these interactions can be both positive and negative so we all need to educate ourselves as to the best way to handle what we run into.

If you have a suspicion about a transaction that a buyer is suggesting, we would be quite happy to give you our opinions on it. Many artist have already ask for out thoughts on the correspondence that they've and I think that we were helpful. We are not experts in exposing scams but we've been on the Internet for 15 years and online for 25 years so we've seen our fair share of scams.

I hope that you all have a great 2008!

Take care,