A little while ago I received an inquiry from a potential customer, with a “regular name” not under a pseudonym, asking me whether painting x and painting y were still available and if I could tell “her” more details. “She” was expecting an urgent reply. So far everything seemed to be okay although I found the “urgent reply” a little bit pushy.

I wrote back that painting x was still available, painting y not. I also asked what details “she” wanted to know as I did not want to overwhelm  “her” with all kinds of stuff  “she” did not want to know. I don’t mind to deliver exactly what people want to know even if it takes several mails. “Her” email address was this time a different one but I did not get suspicious yet as most peole have several email accounts.

In the next email this person asked for confirmation of the price and size, expressed” her” intention to buy the painting and additionally “she” wanted to know what motivated me to create the painting. I wrote “her” the appropriate answer, asked “her” where “she” was located and offered “her” to waive the shipping costs in case “she” should be located in Europe. I also asked “her” to use my Etsy shop in case “she” wanted to purchase my painting.

The next email I received was telling me that “she” apparently did not receive my answer because of  “her”  having problems with “her” email account so I re-sent what I had answered before. In the meanwhile I became a little bit suspicious about all this being okay although I had no reason at all to doubt it yet but there was that little feeling in my gut…

The following email though fully arose my suspicions. With no word did “she” mention anything about what I had told  “her” about the painting. “She” did neither inquire about shipping costs and all that stuff you would like to know as a future customer. Instead  “she” told me a story about not being at home herself but visiting family in the UK, being in the middle of a big move and expecting a baby. “She” was supposed to be back in a few days.  “She” wanted me to send “her” my mailing address and telephone number so that “she” could inform “her” husband who was shutling between “her” home and South Africa and who apparently was organizing the move from the IT head office in Johannisburg in SA to New Jersey. “She” wanted then to forward my contact info to the shipping company who was supposed to move their belongings. The shipping company would send FedEx to my studio to pick up the painting and consolidate the whole move then.

Now I WAS sure that this all was false – a scam. I wrote back to “her” that if  “she” wanted to purchase my painting  “she” or “her” husband would have to do this via my Etsyshop only and that “she” would receive my address and phone number then and only then. I also told “her” that this was for “her” and my own safety because of all the scams out there. I would not let go of my work before the money was in my account.

I never received an answer back.

So what I am telling you here is that these scams are getting more and more perfidious. Using names and phrases like “FedEx” or “head office IT”   should make you feel safe. Telling you “personal things” like visiting family, husband and sister, expecting child etc. is appealing to your emotions and the personal tone should erase your doubts.

But YOUR COMMON SENSE SHOULD NEVER SLEEP!

Who on earth would buy art being in the middle of a move and short before giving birth? What sense does it make to add something to a shipment from one part of the world when stuff is shipped from a total different region of this planet to another? She did not react on my request to purchase through an official shop. Why? This should be much safer for the customer also. She did not mention how she was going to pay – or rather she did not even ask me about it. Apparently it adds to the trick to use a female name because somehow these people think that women are less supposed to be internet scammers. Well – we live in a male world – don’t we? But behind an email address anything could stand…

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The “Israeli Art Scam”

February 5, 2010

Please be aware that this article is not to be interpreted as antisemitic! It is just by accident that this is about fake “Israeli students”!

While I am doing research on the Internet it came into my mind that it might be a good idea to create a new series about art scams. Especially artist beginners tend to step into those traps which can result in costly mistakes. Not everybody is “blessed” with a certain basic suspiciousness but rather “punished” with a naive trust in people and would never think of organized betrayal.

I do not want to get into details about human weaknesses such as ego and vanities these people prey upon nor do I want to accuse good people’s good will to help others which is shamelessly exploited, being also the reason why these criminals will always find victims. It’s a shame! I am going to post just randomly what I find. You can decide what to do with it. Maybe the one or other story is new to you.

I stumbled across an incredible story in an article from the Calgary Sun published in 2009 that might not be new to you but if you haven’t heard about it yet it might be worth for you to read.

If it weren’t so disgusting to exploit again the kindness of people I would say this is really inventive. I am amazed again and again about the criminal energy some people seem to inherit without end:

“Gillian Butler suspected she was being scammed by a con artist, who claimed to be an art student from Israel.

Still, the Cochrane woman fell prey and spent $360 for a pair of reproduced canvas paintings, because she wanted to help impoverished students supposedly on an exchange program to Calgary from Israel. ” Continue to read here

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A similar story was published in 2006 by the Star News Group with a slightly different touch:

“BERWICK and Pakenham residents may have unwittingly become embroiled in an international moneymaking art scam.
Over the past month young people passing themselves off as Israeli art students have been knocking on doors in the area offering original oil paintings at discount prices.

Berwick resident Melinda Cranston said the friendly appearance of an ‘Israeli art student’ who knocked on her door initially allayed any fears she had about inviting her in.
“A nice young girl knocked on the door with a folio of oil paintings. She looked harmless and said the paintings were for sale to help students at a university in Jerusalem,” said Ms Cranston.
“She said there was an exhibition opening in Sydney where the paintings would sell for $1500 to $3000, but she was happy for us to pay between $150 and $250.” Continue to read here

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