During these difficult economic times where it is already a challenge
to sell art, I do not need anyone to scam me for free art. If I want
to give my art away for free, I will donate it to a charity I believe
in. Recently I received an email on a request for additional information
on my art. This happens on a regular basis, but something on this email
raised a few red flags.
Addition: Since I wrote the original article, I have added some other
scam email requests I have received. While you can see the pattern that
they use on reading a few scam request, the other emails are listed
for use in those web searching out more information on artist email requests
they have received.
I have responded to these people for use in the article. I recommend
you do not respond if you feel you are being scammed. Once you start
seeing a pattern, you will be more protected if you every receive one
of these scam requests yourself.
When you receive a particularly very large order over your average order in both quantity of purchase cost, if it seems too good to be true, be more cautious with the order.
This is a scam purchase request I received in November 2021. This is 10 years after the original article was written and some of the same scam clues are evident today.
(Most recent scam email request I received)
My name is Ernest Linas, I own a brick-and-mortar store in Belize, Central America. I had just expanded from a grocery store to a departmental store. I am interested in your products which will be an amazing fit for my store, I will be arranging for the shipment of the goods ordered, through the means of my Freight forwarder to come and pick up the goods at your store or pick up location after payment is made and confirmed by you. Let me know what you would need from me and send your price list while I proceed with my order. Do you accept credit cards for payment?
Waiting to read from you soon.
Some clues of why this is a scam email:
Some of these reasons may seem innocent to you until you get a lot of these scam requests and see a pattern among them. If you respond to the email that you will only ship once the payment clears and you require that you handle the shipping yourself, you will never hear back from the scammer.
1. Customer is stating that they will select or arrange for the shipment of the goods ordered. Also relates to the customer wanting to select the freight forwarders.
Note: You never want a customer to handle the shipping since then they have control and can change the shipping address after the order was shipped. In reality, the items are never shipped since the shipper or freight forwarder they select does not exists.
The scammer will also order a large number of items adding to the weight so the shipping cost, mostly to the foreign country, is a very large amount. In this scam, they will ask you to pay the shipper directly that the scammer selects. The shipper recommended to use is not a real shipper and just a fake shipping company set up by the scammer. You may even find some fake references to this fake shipper on the web. Once you pay the fake shipper, probably by a non traceable money order, the scammer has your money and does not care if they ever receive any of your items.
2. In this email, the customer is asking for a price list that is already on the website. The customer is also not requesting any specific product.
3. Customer wants to pick up the goods at your store versus you mailing them out.
4. Out-of-country order and you normally do not offer this on your online website platforms. The scammer will say they are in Belize, but probably from another country such as Nigeria.
5. Scammers often ask the seller if they take credit cards to seem more legit. They may still purchase by a bad check, bad certifed check or use a stolen credit card. In most cases, they are really interested in you paying the fake shipper by a money order or other methods which is really the scammer customer and has no intention of picking up the order.
6. Most scammers try to tell a story. Some might be that they need the items quickly since they are moving soon. In this case, it involves going from a grocery store to a departmental store which sounds fishy as it is. In other cases, it may seem like they are in a hurry such as purchase for a wedding or they are moving soon.
Note: Another type of scam is when the customer may also send you a certified check of a larger amount than requested and ask for you to send them a check for the over amount. Of course, the check they sent you is bad even if the bank accepts it initially. I recommend that you never send out an order until the bank says that the check has cleared which is different than the bank accepting the check since the bank can take the deposit out of your account if the check proves bad weeks later.
Note: Usually a clue is poor grammar in the request, but bad grammar is not shown in this above scam request.
(First scam email request I received)
David Nutter email@example.com
Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 4:04 AM,
My name is David Nutter, i will like to order for some piece of your
work from your studio as gift for my parent are celebrating their wedding
anniversary, so i will be glad to have your reply as soon as possible,
i will be glad if you can send me your web site address to choose or
send me four of your product via email that is available for me to choose.
Waiting to read from you today.so that we can make some progress.
I will be waiting to read from you at you convince time.
So what is a red flag? For me, it is anything that makes me more careful with my potential art buyer. This does not mean it is a scam, but it reminds me to take certain precautions.
Red flag 1: Bad English or grammar. You cannot expect perfect English if your customer's country first language is not English but many scams are from out of the country. One area that is known for many scams is Nigeria in Africa.
Red flag 2: Why is David asking for my website address? In most cases,
if one finds me on the web where my email address is listed, it also lists my website address. It is implied from the email that he has already decided to purchase my artwork, but he had not been to my website to see the art or prices yet.
Red flag 3: Implying a sense of urgency is also a red flag. The wording "as soon as possible" for a wedding anniversary could come into play to send the order out soon not leaving enough time to determine if the money order or cashier's check is actually good. It may take two weeks or up to a month for certain countries to determine if these checks clear the bank. The bank may put the money into your account right away, but when it does not clear, the bank will just take it out again. If you already mailed out the artwork, you would have not received any compensation for your art.
At this time, I would give the potential customer the information they asked for but I may ask them what country they are from and state that all money orders or cashier's checks will need to clear before any art can be shipped.
(Here is my email response)
On Mon, 19 Jul 2010 05:22:30 +0530 wrote
My web site is www.bobestrin.com.
If you are located outside of the United States, please state your country since I will need to determine any shipping costs based on destination.
(Email response from customer)
Loading...8:51 PM (12 hours ago)
Thanks for your reply concerning my order, I am OK with the once below. Now i want you to get back to me with the total price of the once below. And i am sure that my parent will love your great works.
Hoodoos Under the Stars
Agaist the Wall
Erosion in Motion
Stairway to Excellence
Meanwhile, I don't want you to bother your self concerning the shipment i have a shipping company come for the pickup in your gallery also they will be the one to make the packing, just get back to me with the price of the art work so that we can make some progress.
Big red flag 4: If the customer wants to hire a private shipping company to pick up at your house, just do not do it. If the customer hires the shipping company, they have their name on the shipping account. They will simply call up the shipper and ask for the bogus delivery address to be changed during transit. The artist has no idea that this can be done and the shipper will not inform the artist of an address change since the buyer is really the shipper's customer and not the artist. The art is shipped to the new address and you later find that the check did not clear the bank. If the out of the area customer wants to have a friend pick up the art from your house, gallery, or studio that is also a clue of the same scam.
The private shipper may also not really exist and the customer will request that you send a money order to the fake shipper (really the customer and not a shipper). Commonly, they order many pieces so that the weight and shipping amount will be high and the scammers make money off of the shipping money you send them with the money order. The art is never picked up by the fake shipper. If you made a custom order such as in photography or did custom framing, you are still out some money from the cost of your supplies even if the order was not sent out.
Big red flag 5: The customer did not request a selected photograph size which may not be needed for a painting but I offer my photography in different sizes. The size is needed for me to give the requested price quote. Anything really out of order from your normal situations should stand out as a red flag.
Red flag 6: While I often get large art orders, they have always have come from customers that I have talked to in person and for a commercial building project. This large order was a personal purchase for an individual. I would have to have my customer's phone number and give them a quick call for any large order like this even if in the United States. I normally require a deposit of 50% for larger orders and that deposit check would clear before I ship the order.
Big red flag 7: You probably noticed that the customer never answered my question of what country he was from. Since the customer was on my website, I could see the country location of recent visitors to my website using website tracking software. Check out what country the customer was emailing from, listed below. If the customer would have told me his country, I would have compared it to the origin of his email order request.
IP Address 22.214.171.124
ISP Zoom Mobile Nigeria Ltd
18th July 2010 08:48:12 PM
Visit Length 2 mins 12 secs
Once an out-of-country customer makes the order and it is not from a credit card, I let them know about the need to have the check or Western Union, or money gram clear before sending the art. Also, in this case, I need to ship the order myself. After the following email is sent, I would expect to not hear back from them if it is a scam and I did not. I probably would not have even responded with my email shown below if I noticed that the customer was in Nigeria, Africa before I sent it.
(Email to customer)
9:42 PM (12 hours ago)
I only ship by Fed Ex and the order has to be shipped by me. Any payment that takes time to clear will need to be totally clear before shipment.
Other things to look out for:
In reality, I would never personally accept payment by Western Union or money gram check since it can be counterfeited. I would also never send a customer or private shipper a Western Union or Money gram check since it is untraceable and can be picked up in many countries. Just because the customer says he's from London, does not mean he can't go to a Western Union store in Africa and cash it. Another scam to look out for is that the customer may want to pay you extra money or "accidentally" include a larger amount on a check than you asked for. Then the customer asks you to send them a Western Union check for the over amount. I can guarantee you that the original check your received will not clear.
Be careful of anyone sending you an art request to purchase your work
and then in the same email asking you for your website address. It is most
likely that they did not see your artwork on any website and just got your email off of a list.
If you receive a check from a scammer and it arrives using Fed Ex, be careful. It is against the law to send a fraudulent check via USPS
and most scammer's know not to do this. If scammer's use the USPS, it is a crime in which when reported to the USPS can take action. Scammer's
know that Fed Ex will not go after them, so they use Fed Ex.
A common scam is the buyer sends you a check for an amount higher than what was requested by the artist. They then inform you of this overpayment and ask you to send them a check or wire transfer to them for the extra amount they sent you. When the original check that they sent do does not clear, you are out of the overpayment amount you sent them. This scam is never about the art they ordered and is only about you sending them a check for the overpayment amount. The original check they sent you will never clear and any money that your bank put into your account initially from the check deposit will be taken out when the check is determined to be bad.
If you really need to take a cashier's check from another country, ask them to get one from a bank that you have also in your area. You can then go physically to the bank and ask the bank if the customer has funds in their account and the check should clear faster. Also, don't be afraid to ask your local bank if any type of check you get looks valid. They will not be able to tell you it will clear, but they might be able to notice a fake check.
Also, you still need to be careful on large out-of-country orders made by credit card. If the credit card is stolen and even if the order initially passes a credit check, you could still get a chargeback and the money previously deposited will be deducted from your account. For large orders, I not only would need to talk to the person on the phone but may wait a week to see if anyone reported the credit card stolen before I ship out the order. Large orders usually take a little time to prepare and send out anyway.
Another thing to watch out for is if the customer wants only information from you, but is not willing to give you any private information such as their phone number or needed bank information. If you are suspicious of the information they do send you, use Google to verify what you can. Does a search find the private shipper, did you search the customer's email address or name along with the word "spam" to see if anything shows up? The spammers are probably using free email accounts so the email address may not be used long enough to show up anything.
Perhaps I was being a little picky to list so many red flags, but I was really trying to show my thought process. A few red flags do not mean much but a single red flag of having the customer wanting to use a shipping company you are not familiar with or want you to pay for shipping using Western Union or the shipping address is to Nigeria or anywhere in Africa is enough for me to discontinue the conversation.
It would be nice if we lived in a world where we could trust everyone. Art does not seem to be number one on a list of popular items to steal since it is harder to sell. I guess the scammer can still make a profit if it does not cost them anything or at most the shipping cost. I have never had a problem taking a credit card from someone I talked to on the phone with and did my own shipping. One would think most customers buying art from another country would also want the protection of purchasing using a credit card.
Listed below is another sample email scam I received a few years ago. Notice that they also are asking for my web address and let you know that they want to pay by money order and that they have an urgent art order for me. Also, the spelling and grammar are very bad for someone from Nevada. Most people believe money orders and cashier's checks are guaranteed but even if the bank looks at it and says it looks legit, if it ends up being fake, they are not worth the paper they are printed on.
show details 4/15/07
how are you?well i am mailing in regards to placing
an urgent art order from you. i just relocated from
Nevada USA to United Kingdom which is my new business
home and i want to decorate my home with some
artworks,so i am intrested in your works due to your
creativity and i am willing to have some of your works
picked up,but before i can order the exact amount i
need i am looking to ordering a sample of your work so
please can you email me samples of your work of range
from $300-$850 or send me a weblink that i can view
them,so that i can order that as my sample order and if
i am satisfied by the creativity viewing it i will be
happy to order more.
So please try to email me back in
regards to my request and in regards to the payment i
will be paying you with Money order in US dollars,so i
hope this is ok with you.I will stay updated for you response.
Reply |Bob Estrin to billjohnson_22
show details 4/15/07
You can see my art at www.bobestrin.com.
Any Money orders will need to totally clear my bank which would take at least two weeks once I cash it before any orders can go out.
As I expected, I never heard from them again.
Interestingly, I got another similar email scam request the day after I wrote this article. I must have gotten myself on a list or something. I could see that they are also from Nigeria from my web statistics. I am showing it below.
(Initial email from customer)
On Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 12:41 AM, Edward Smiles <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
This mail is to make inquiry on the below question.
1- Do you carry overseas? (though i already know of a freight forwarder that
will pick my packages from you,since they ship lesser than any other courier
and they are so effective in shipping my goods to me here in
Queensland,Australia is estimated to be 3-4days) I have used their services
in the past and it was splendid.
2- Do you accept credit card for payment(my U.S.A Master and Visa card to be
Kindly let me know your comments on these, before i send the items i am
interested in purchasing from you.
From: Bob Estrin <email@example.com>
To: Edward Smiles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tue, Jul 20, 2010 6:54 am
Subject: Re: Order Inquiry Needed
I can ship to Australia and take both Visa and Master Charge cards.
My website is www.bobestrin.com.
Thanks for the email find below the items I want to order:
(4)Taking in the View
(5)Big Horn Sheep
(6)Wolf at Pond
My store information
234 Cairns Central, 1st Floor,
Corner McLeod St and Spence St,
When you figure out the weight of the items kindly send to the shipper.find below information to contact my freight forwarder:
The contact person
Mrs Paula Giselle
Freight Cargo's name:Fastlink Global Transport
For more information of the freight company kindly contact them they will get back to you with the necessary feedback you required.The freight company, has my shipping
profile already, (Queensland Australia).The weight of the package and your company address is what they needed to give a shipping cost to you. kindly get back to me when you have the actual total cost (both order cost and the shipping cost from the shipper), And I shall forward my payment details (credit card) to you to charge for the total cost and the shipping cost for the shipper, so that you can complete the arrangement for the pick up with the shipper.After which the shipper has come for the pick up, Kindly advice back Asap.
You can see the same type of pattern.
1. Large order with no effort on their part to list the photograph sizes wanted. Also large quantity of the same images. I have never had an order for this size without talking with the customer about the project the artwork is for. If it seems too good to be true, be more cautious.
2. The customer has his own shipper that they use. I could not find this shipping company listed anywhere.
3. They accessed my website from Nigeria, not Australia according to my web statistics. Just because they say they are from one country, that does not mean that they are not from another country. These are bad people and yes they lie. Once you mail an expensive check for the shipping cost to the fake shipping company, which goes really to them, you are out of your money. They do not even need to receive your art for the scam to be profitable to them.
4. The time between my initial email response and the actual order was only a few hours. In all of my past large orders, the customers took much more time to order and then asks me to send them a detailed listing of the order with prices so that they can write up a purchase order. The customer would then send me a more formal purchase order on the companies letterhead for my records.
If you see too much red, let the seller beware.
UPDATE: 5/11 This person Kristen Menne from email@example.com has tried
to scam me twice over the last month, so
I am adding her to my article.
I am Kristen Menne, an American but I live and work here in Japan .I will like
to place an order for some items from you, but I will like to know what you
have available in stock.Let me have your website address so I can view the
products you have presently in stock and if there is any special pricing
I need to know about.Lastly regarding payment I will be sending you my credit
card for the full payment charges for my order.In order to avoid any form
of delays can you let me know the type of credit cards you accept?I hope
to hear from you as soon as possible so we can proceed with the Order
(Second Contact) Note: Since I did not send her my web address, she sent
me back some art titles and sizes that are not related to any art I sell.
How are you and yours, I apologize for the delay in my response i have been
very busy with work here is my order :
# i am NOW/HERE
# 24 " x 24 " x 2 "
# Prevailing Winds
# 16 " x 13 " x 0 "
# Autumn Leaves
# 30 " x 40.25 " x 1.25 "
Please get back to me with the total cost estimate for this order so that
i can make my payment via my USA issued credit card.I am an American but I
live and work here in Japan and I want these products here.Do not worry about
the shipping , I will make arrangement for the pick up of these items from
your place thru my shipping agency.PLEASE LET ME KNOW THE GRAND TOTAL WEIGHT
OF THESE ITEMS FOR SHIPPING REASON.
UPDATE: 5/11 Scammer : Garry Packer from firstname.lastname@example.org. From
web statistics is from Nigeria, Africa.
I am interested in purchasing your artworks.Please tell me about payment
if payment with check or money order will be okay with you and shipping methods.
and copy your website link where your latest artwork can be view for further
My website is www.bobestrin.com. Any payment by check or money order will
need to clear before the order will be processed. All orders must be shipped
by me and will be shipped by Fed Ex.
You can see that he want the artist to use his private
shipping agent (never do), he used the term "Paint" and I do photography
and he says he is in Austria when I can see his review of my website came from
Nigeria. He is also asking for large sizes since that will increase the shipping
costs and it is the shipping scam that he makes money on. He is also asking
of personal information such as home phone and cell number. Never give this
out to a scammer. As
a personal message, this guy spent 8 minutes on my website which I thougt was
interesting. They usually only spend a few minutes just enough to get a name
of a few pieces of art for their next scam email to you. I thought it was a
little funny that the scammer asked for a discount.
How are you doing today? I Appreciate your mail and your works are so
wonderful,am a art lover i want to hang the paint in my new home in
Austria so Below is the artwork needed along with frame...
Death Valley Dunes
30 x 45 **
30 x 45 **
Kindly get back to me with last asking price for the works listed
excluding the shipping cost and what is my discount on this
works?..Due to my business policy i have a private shipping agent
that handles my goods and she has been working with me for a very
longtime and i will appreciate if you could bear with me.Importantly
i will advice you get back to me with your details so i can issue out
the check payment for the artworks i listed above,kindly get back to
me with you payment details as required below..
Full Contact name....
Full Contact Address..
Home Phone number..
Cell Phone number..
Kindly get back to me with the details requested For further
proceeding To enable me to issue out the check without any delay as
soon as i make the payment my shipping agent will be coming over to
your location for the pick up as soon as you have receive the money
and shipping process will commence without delay..... I will issue
cashier check once you are okay with my payment method or i will
instruct my secretory to issue out the check payment to you with your
details as requested above.
Have a wonderful day
Another one from Nigeria. Many clues such as overseas, asks if I take credit cards, expresses interest in ordering before even selecting artwork. Asking which artworks have not been sold and available for photography which points to a form notice not specifically written for your website or artwork. Also bad grammar on " looking forward to reading from you".
Comments: Hello,,I am emailing to inquire about the availability of artwork for sale in your gallery, if you can ship international and also if you are able to process Electronically Visa and Master Card Number/Expiry date/Cvv as payment. Let me know so that i can communicate with you on the artworks that interest me,you can also indicate to me which of the arts are sold and which are available on your website.,I will be looking forward to reading from you.,Sincerely
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Copyright 2011 Bob Estrin
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