Buyer/shipping scams are the most common
scams that hit artists. The scammers prey on artists who are eager for
a sale, and move quickly before the artist realizes they've been duped.
This is typically used for anyone selling goods online, but the scammers
have been targeting anyone selling ad-hoc items, typically in online marketplaces.
Any artist with a website, online profile,
or selling art online. These scams typically happen more often around the
holiday season, around November to February.
How it works:
- The buyer is in one location, the art
is going to another location, and the money is issued from a third location
- The buyer has their own shipping company
or private shipper----one you've never heard of before
- The buyer wants to move quickly and
issue you a cheque, money order or bank draft from a bank you've never
heard of before
- After the sale, the buyer suddenly falls
victim to a horrible life event and needs the sale refunded
- The scammer trolls artist websites,
artist profile websites and online art markets/galleries for artists.
- They will typically pick artwork which
is priced highly, is heavy or awkward to ship.
- The scammer will pose as a buyer, asking
to purchase the work.
- The scammer will offer to take care
of the shipping themselves, though their own shipping company or private
- They will often, but not always, say
that they will pay you for the shipping and the art, and ask you to reimburse
the money to their shipping company.
- The shipping cost will almost always
be disproportionately higher to a standard courier or even most specialty
- The scammer is not interested in getting
your artwork or sending someone to your home or studio.
- The scammer will very quickly send you
a cheque, money order or bank draft
- After you have confirmed that you have
cashed the payment, the scammer will tell you that they have had a horrible
life event--- a death or illness in the family, falling victim to a natural
disaster, or even needing the money because of an unexpected pregnancy.
- The scammer will ask you to refund the
money right away to deal with their new life issues.
- You will have a valid cheque, money
order or bank draft sent to the scammer, feeling sorry for their situation.
Because the shipping company doesn't exist, they never picked up the artwork
and you don't have a problem with refunding the sale
- The scammer receives your cheque and
- Your bank realizes that the cheque,
money order or bank draft from the scammer is a fake and removes the money
from your account
- You have now lost the money, with very
little recourse for recovering it!
Why it works:
How to protect yourself:
- People selling wares online are typically
very excited to make a sale, especially if their sales are low
- People are generally understanding of
life events where large purchases need to be refunded
- Banks will credit your account the amount
of money deposited before validating the funds from your cheque. This can
take more than three weeks, and the cheque doesn't always get validated
even if you go to a teller.
- The scammers are international, and
with the scam happening across many countries. Because of legal jurisdictions,
your local police can't do much with it; because of the small amounts of
each scam, this isn't a priority for organizations such as Interpol.
- The scammers use free email addresses,
and most of these hosts just can't keep up with the complaints. By the
time the scam has happened, the email address has been abandoned and the
scammer is using a new email address and name.
- If you are being asked to ship an item,
always use a known courier company. If you are being asked to use a company
you are not familiar with, provide the client with similar alternatives
that are less expensive and provide the same protection for the safe delivery
of the artwork. Any legitimate buyer will be open to saving some money
as long as the art will arrive safely and is insured.
- Request payment via a credit card. Online
payment options like Pay Pal provide both buyers and sellers with added
protection, and you can process the purchase via email. Although they will
take a percentage of your sale, you will be safer in the long-run and bank
fees should be considered part of your operational costs. Any legitimate
buyer should be open to paying via credit card, because it also provides
them with recourse if their item doesn't arrive.
- If you do take a cheque, explain to
the buyer that you will not ship the item or refund the money until the
money is fully cleared. This will typically scare away any fake buyers
and encourage real ones to pay with a credit card.
- If you do take a cheque, explain its
origins to your bank teller and ask to have a hold on the funds until the
cheque clears. Ensure they understand that you do not want to be at risk
if this is a scam. They should be fully aware of this type of scam. If
you have problems, speak to the bank manager. Do not be afraid to make
it an issue---just remain calm and professional!
- Have a separate phone number for business.
There have been horror stories of scammers calling people at all hours
of the night, making threats and demands for their "money" to
be returned. VOIP and cell phone numbers are inexpensive to maintain now,
and keeping a separate phone line for business is a good way to keep your
business and personal life separate anyway.
- Always conduct yourself professionally
- Do not be afraid to lose a sale. Even
if they are a legitimate buyer, would you want to do business with someone
who is not willing to negotiate the sales terms with you?