Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Almost Scammed

I don't have a painting ready to post quite yet, but want to warn other artists who sell online about something that almost happened to me this month.

Someone emailed me a couple weeks ago and said she wanted to buy three paintings. I told her she could pay by PayPal through my Etsy Shop or Daily Paintworks Gallery, but she wanted to pay by check, and then have FedEx come to my house to pick up the work.  She gave me a story about being in Cancun for her twin sister's wedding, and her husband shuttling back and forth to London. She said he would send a check and asked for my address. Yesterday a cashier's check arrived for much, much more than the agreed payment.

I emailed her to ask if there had been a mistake. She answered immediately that she had been hospitalized and so communication had broken down between her and her husband, and thus he had overpaid. She asked me to subtract the price for three paintings and wire the rest of the money back.

On the advice of a friend, I called the issuing bank (Summit Bank in Madison, WI) and they told me the check is fraudulent, and that this is a scam that is happening with increasing frequency to people who sell online.

Just wanted to warn my partners in arms, my allies, my fellow artists!  We need to look out for each other, so please be forewarned!


  1. I've had this happen to me too - several times. I can usually tell from the wording and poor spelling on the initial email that it is a scammer. Sometimes I google the name and find it posted under scams on the Artspan forum. I suppose I should not assume and may be turning away a serious buyer, but I would rather be safe than make a sale. It is a shame there are jerks like that out there. You have to be vigilant.

  2. Thanks Taryn for posting this because forewarned is forearmed! I read a story from another artist who said her paintings had been copied and the other person was selling them, people sent the money through Paypal and then no paintings arrived. She said it is always a good idea to Google our own name on the internet to find out if anything is happening.

  3. Hi Julie- I was wondering if this particular scam had happened to anyone I knew- thanks.

  4. Amanda, that is REALLY scary. At first I thought you meant that an artist actually copied paintings- you know, by brush- but now understand how simple it would be to just use images for fake sales. Awful.

  5. That is SO scary Taryn. I'm so glad you caught it! I've heard of this scam before and I've been approached before. Honestly I only accept payment thru paypal now for all my online sales. It's just safer for both parties you know? Thanks for the warning! :)

  6. Hi Taryn-artist Trevor Jones has a great blog-with about 10 posts re a scam artist who Trevor strung along-sharing the correspondence between him and the scam artist and the police thrown in-here is a link to the last post, but worth going to the first one to read through

    *really like your work

  7. Thanks so much for the warning Taryn.

  8. Thanks so much for letting us know. I love this online community of artists that look out for each other!

  9. Jan, thanks for the link- fascinating- this scheme is more common than I had thought. I love the way the guy was strung along.
    Here is the last email I received from "Angela Howard", who forgot what her name was supposed to be and signed off as "Joy"
    Re: Artworks Inquiry...
    Angela Howard.Add to Contacts
    Mon, May 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm
    Hi Taryn ,

    Hope this message finds you well. I am very sorry that i have been
    unable to get in touch for some days . I was hospitalized in Cancun
    immediately after my twin sister's wedding. I almost had miscarriage
    but thank God, i am now feeling better and can't wait to have my baby
    and settle down.

    Good to hear you have received payment for the paintings and thanks
    for your update. I am very excited and can't wait to have them on my
    wall. I hope to give the paintings a very good home and enjoy them for

    Regarding the payment, i think Jean made a mistake and sent your
    payment with that of the movers because he didn't have full details of
    the transaction since i was sick when he sent it. I am very sorry
    for the confusion. Anyway, i will like you to go ahead and deposit the
    payment, you can then remove the asking price for the artworks and
    forward the difference back to him.

    Meanwhile , i was able to get hold of the movers immediately i got
    your email and they promise to get in touch with you tomorrow and make
    shipping arrangement. Try and keep me updated as soon as you hear from

    Best Regards,

  10. Taryn -
    OMG - I got an email from "Angela" as well! I've gotten scam emails before, but this one didn't immediately set off the warning bell in my brain because she asked about specific paintings and we had a lot of back and forth discussion (usually scammers just say "artwork" and never directly answer any questions!). But then when she said she was in Cancun for her sister's wedding and her husband was going to handle the payment and shipping while they were in the middle of a move, I became suspicious. I sent her an email saying I could only accept payment through PayPal and I take care of my own shipping because of liability, but I'd be happy to hold the paintings after they paid for them until they had moved and then ship to hernew address. I never heard back from her again!

    Is it okay if I post a link to your blog post around so that other people don't get caught by this scammer?

  11. Yes, Debbie, certainly! Eventually this person will probably have to come up with a different story, but maybe not for a while. Yes, she mentioned three paintings by title, as she (or he) did with you.

  12. It's a good thing you were smart and didn't fall for this - the exact same thing happened to me several years ago - I didn't fall for it, either, and I contacted the FBI about it, although they never followed up with me.

  13. I am in the same situation right now. What set off the alarm bells was when I received another email with a similar story. The guy just emailed me that he sent me the money via paypal already. Checked my pal and i only have my own paypal credits there. I was excited already that the paintings are going to be sold in just 1 week but oh well...too bad it's a bogus.
    Now I'm scouring the internet for more info on this scam.



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