After a bit of Googling today I’m seeing this sort of scam has been around a long time, but it was news to me. Here’s how it went down:
In early January I was contacted via email by this person:
The subject line was “ARTWORK PURCHASE” and the email went thus:
I’m an art lover/collector and I’m collecting a few pieces to design the living room and stairway in my new house.I came across your artworks and I find them captivating. I would love to have some of your pieces. Let me know the pieces you have available including their sizes,materials and prices so I can make an order. You can also send me some pictures.
Okay, innocent enough inquiry, and I do sell printed pieces now and then. I responded with what I had on hand, the prices, and an offer to print (or even create) a custom piece if he’d rather. No, came back, he’d like two of the ones I showed him and the prices were fine.
He gave a physical address to invoice him (which turned out to be bogus) but I almost always invoice electronically since it has a direct link to pay me by credit card and the small fee is more than worth the convenience to me. Anyway, after a bit of back and forth he said the check was on the way.
Now, see, I had no worries regardless of who this person really was. I wasn’t going to part with the pieces until his check cleared and after that I cared not what he actually did with them.
Then several days later I got two checks in the mail, one addressed and payable to me personally and one to my Studio. No letter, no return address, just two envelopes containing one check apiece and with Canadian postage. The checks were drawn on a Florida property escrow company and each one was for more than double the price of the two art pieces.
This was so out in left field I actually didn’t even connect the checks to the art guy, I just thought it was bizarre as hell to get them and contacted the escrow company asking, basically, WTF? They came back immediately, jazzed to the gills and concerned. They do cut checks via Canada and had no idea who was behind these nor why they were sent to me. We talked with the FBI, I sent them all the physical evidence via FedEx, and we puzzled over why this had happened.
Note that at this point we still had made no connection to the art guy.
Then this morning the company told me they’d heard from a second person who got a mysterious check from them, and that it was related to an art buy. Bingo. Funny enough, within minutes of the company relating that to me the art guy emailed me, said I should have the check by now, and named this company as well as the majorly-overpaid amount.
So, now it made sense: they overpay you (via stolen check or credit card) and then tell you the difference is to cover the packing and shipping and ask you to send them that amount. In my case the scam hasn’t gotten to that point yet, where they try to set the hook, and the scammer still thinks I haven’t yet received the check. I’m working with the authorities as to what I’ll do next.
Here is a link to a blogger who’s working hard to get the word out on this. I’ve sent her my experience so she can add it to the list.
Ugh. Sneaky bastards. Imagine what they could accomplish if they used half this “creative” energy to come up with actual products or services?
UPDATE: Looks like my fun times baiting that art scammer are done. Today he started firehosing me with texts to my office number pushing me about when I was going to schedule the pickup. I reminded him I had told him the check would take a few days to clear, starting yesterday. I also offered to get the ball rolling in the meantime, so if he would please give me the info for the packing/shipping company I’d set things up. Since we were talking over three grand I was supposed to send them I stressed I needed to make sure it got only to them, and safely.
The barrage of texts ceased and it’s been the chirping of crickets ever since. Pity, it was kind of amusing. I did report the phone number he was texting from but it’s probably a burner.
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