Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How to Avoid Art Scams

I've gotten the strange e-mails: someone wants to know how to make a purchase, even though my website has "Add to Cart" buttons; they say their interested in my "art" or "quilts" but don't mention which specific one; and they tell me to be sure to include my website address, which they would have if they looked at any of my quilts. I was pleased to find a website with lots of good info on how to keep from becoming a victim:

Be skeptical.
Artists are increasingly being targeted in Internet scams. After all, what artist hasn't dreamed of being "discovered" and selling several works of art to an admiring collector or a wealthy buyer? A few tell-tale signs to look for in any email you receive from a prospective buyer: misspelled words, poor grammar, and an urgent overseas buyer. They also typically want to make the shipping arrangements themselves or have someone pick the work up for them, rather than have you ship it to them - probably because they don't want the authorities to track them to a particular address. Or worse, they are looking for an excuse to enter your home.

Never ship your artwork to someone without making sure the payment has cleared.
Be aware that even though your bank may give you cash for cashier's checks and postal money orders, they can still be counterfeit. Cashier's checks and postal money orders can take up to a month to fully clear. If the payment turns out to be fraudulent, you could be held responsible for the entire amount withdrawn from your bank.

Beware if you have been overpaid for an item you are selling by cashier's check or postal money order and have been instructed to return the overpayment amount to the buyer or other party.
Never agree to return an overpayment. See explanation above.

Don't deal with persons who insist it is "urgent" or those who claim that they need the item in a hurry (perhaps for a gift).
Con artists will try to pressure you so you don't have time to ensure the funds have cleared. Honest buyers should understand that you need to wait until their check has had time to clear.

Perform due diligence if a gallery wants to exhibit your work, or a company wants to license your art.
Check with the local better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce as well as your Attorney General's office to find out if they are a legitimate business and to learn if there have been any complaints lodged against them. Insist on a contract with all of the terms in writing, signed and dated by both parties. Carefully scrutinize the document and read all terms of the agreement before signing. Don't sign anything you are uncomfortable with or anything you do not fully understand. Remember too that contract terms are often negotiable.

Beware of vanity galleries and publishers who charge artists to have their work included in a publication.
Vanity galleries charge exhibition fees for artists to exhibit their work, rather than commissions on sales. The fees can be very high and the galleries do not have an incentive to effectively promote your work since they make their money from exhibition fees, rather than sales of your art. The same is true for vanity publications - publishers who charge artists to have their work published.

Beware of emails from a foreign government official requesting assistance in the transfer of excess funds from a foreign country into your bank account.
Again, these scam artists attempt to steal your money. The persons perpetrating these scams are considered extremely dangerous.

Safeguard your online transactions to help prevent identity theft or unauthorized credit card charges.
Purchase only from a trusted retailer or use an online payment service, such as PayPal, which allows you to shop without sharing financial information. Website pages which request financial information, such as credit card numbers, should always have a website address that begins with "https". The "s" lets you know that your personal information is encrypted when it is sent, preventing unauthorized people from seeing the information that is sent across the Internet.

There's more great info and links, including samples of e-mail scams at www.artscams.com.

* ArtScams.com is a resource created to help artists avoid falling victim to the many scams that proliferate the art market and the Internet. They are not affiliated with any law enforcement agency, and the information provided here is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.

No comments: