We see a lot of variations of this particular scam. They have slowly morphed over the years, but the core idea is looking for a wife's gift, wanting more details about work and wondering if you take a certified cashier cheque. The cheque part is a newer addition, and I think that's a mistake as it makes it more obvious that it's a scam. It used to come in later once a conversation got going. If followed through, the scam generally revolves around sending a "certified cashiers' cheque" that most people don't know can be easily faked, for the amount of the product plus an amount that they want you to send to their "shipping company" and that will pick up the product. You pay the "shipping company" by sending money to them via Western Union, usually in London. The shipping company never picks up the product, the cashiers' cheque bounces after about 30 days, and the artist is out the amount sent to the shipping company.
From: Gilbert Barillas <email@example.com>
Date: April 23, 2023 at 1:27:08 PM EDT
Subject: Artwork inquiry
Greetings... I am Gilbert from Gadsden Alabama. I have been on the lookout for some artwork lately in regards to I and my wife's anniversary which is just around the corner. I stormed on to some of your jewelry which I found quite impressive and intriguing. I must admit you're doing quite an amazing job. You are undoubtedly good at what you do.
With that being said, I would like to purchase some of your jewelry as a surprise gift to my wife in honor of our upcoming wedding anniversary. It would be of help if you could send some pictures of your piece of jewel, with their respective prices and sizes, which are ready for immediate (or close to immediate) sales. My budget for this is within the price range of $1000 to $3500.
I look forward to reading from you in a view to knowing more about your pieces of inventory. As a matter of importance, I would also like to know if you accept a certified cashiers check as a means of payment.
At the bottom of this post is a message that was left on one of our artist's contact forms. Here are some of the red flags that I see to identify this as a spammer and potentially a scammer.
While there are legitimate people doing this kind of work, most are bordering on scams.
In particular, this message has a number of red flags.
You would have to ask yourself, how much would a digital marketing person from Angola know about the needs of a Canadian artist selling mostly to a local community? So no matter how legitimate they might be, could they be of much help to the artist?
We do see a lot of these kinds of spam messages. They seem to be mostly from India but we do some from lots of other locations.
Here is the content of the message in question:
24 Jun 2021 04:36 AM
Stacy Carner<firstname.lastname@example.org> Benguela, Angola 🇦🇴 (18.104.22.168)
Re: Fix Website Errors
My name is Stacy and I am a Digital Marketing Specialists for a Creative Agency.
I was doing some industry benchmarking for a client of mine when I came across your website.
I noticed a few technical errors which correspond with a drop of website traffic over the last 2-3 months which I thought I would bring to your attention.
After closer inspection it appears your site is lacking in 4 key criteria.
1- Website Speed
2- Link Diversity
3- Domain Authority
4- Competition Comparison
I can send you over the report which shows all of the above and so much more which will help you at least improve your site, its rankings and traffic.
I would love the chance to help as well however; this report will at least give you a gauge on the quality of what I do. If you are interested then please share your requirement and contact details.
Is this the best email to send it to?
This spam message is a variation of an initial art scam message we've seen a lot of. In this case, it has been simplified down to a minimal message wanting to buy a painting for the sender's wife. Many others have a more complex initial message. The advantage of this message is it is pretty simple and is more likely to get some initial engagement. Again, we know that this spam because it has come through many of our artists' website contact page.
From: Thomas Wayne, email@example.com
i am Thomas Wayne from North Carolina i will like to purchase a paint for my wife,shes so much obsessed with artwork so i will like to surprise her for her birthday and our wedding anniversary coming up .
thanks and best regards
Strictly speaking, this message is just spam as it doesn't get into what scam is behind it but it looks like it would evolve up in the cashier's cheque/shipping scam. It is from "Degory", Degory1958@artlover.com. Here is the message:
How is everything with you? I picked interest in your artwork and decided to write you. I will like to know if your artwork can be purchased and shipped internationally?.
I can email the artwork of interest and payment will be completed in full once you confirm my purchase order with a quotation.
Kindly let me know when you are in office and ready to take my artwork order also let me know if you accept either PayPal or Visa Card or Master Card for payment furthermore you can email me your recently updated website or art price list in your response.
The message is so generic. It's really just attempting to open communications with someone to see who will bite. The fact that this was sent from the contact page of an artist's website but is asking for "a recently updated website" suggests that this was just a cut and paste job. This identical message has come through many of our artists' websites so its easy for us recognize it as spam.
Yet another variation of the art shipping scam:
Name: Vanit Chirathivat
Email Addrdess: firstname.lastname@example.org
I just saw your portfolio/contact information online and i so much appreciate your works and would be interested in making a direct purchase from you for my personal use,so please let me know if that's possible,also thank you so much for your time taken to read my message and i patiently await your response.
This seems like a reasonable initial contact request. The grammar is a bit off and there are a few typos but I see those kinds of errors in legitimate messages too. The phrase "making a direct purchase from you for my personal use" seems a bit odd and sounds like they don't want the artist to direct the emailer to their gallery or agent who would likely be much more savvy about spotting scams. I think that many artists would reply to this message and there is not much harm in doing so other than that the artist should be very careful about providing many details about themselves. The artist should only provide information that they already have on their website or would feel comfortable being on their website.
After the artist responds, we then get to see the shape of the scam in the next message:
Name: Vanit Chirathivat
Email Addrdess: email@example.com
Thanks you so much for your response to my enquiry its deeply appreciated,i reside in Ontario but i'm currently out of town at the moment on a project,please find listed below what i am interested in,i would so much appreciate it if i could get further information's as regards them and please do let me know if i made a correct choice and if its available for sale for my personal use as earlier said and also do let me know how much it costs
[Removed title of 1 painting]
Secondly as regards shipping of the items,i could take care of that by myself as i have a private shipment broker that could come over to your place and pick up the items from your as soon as you have been paid fully and funds have been made available to you at hand,the shipment broker i intend to use has some huge chunk of furniture's and fittings to pick up for me close to you,so i would be needing your full mailing address and phone numbers inclusive of mobile number to pass to the shipment broker for logistics,alternatively i would like to know from you if
1)You would still prefer to ship the works yourself?
2)You would be okay and fine with me arranging the shipping/pick up through the private shipment broker that i have worked with in the past?
And Finally as regards payment,it would be made available to you on my behalf in form a certified cheque or money order drawn in cdn funds by my business associate that owes me,also please note that as soon as you have received the payment and it has been cleared by your bank and funds have been made available to you,i would then need you to please deduct your own funds for your works and then keep the remainder of the funds with you or alterntively use it for shipping or additional purchases from you,so that as soon as that's done you would then hand over the items for shipment to the shipment broker that would come and pick up the items from your place if you prefer pick up,Also please note that the payment and funds that would be made available to you would be inclusive of funds for shipping of your items and for the shipment broker.
So in order for the funds to be made available to you the following information's would be needed from you
Names to be written on the payment
Full mailing address
Phone numbers inclusive of mobile
So thanks so much and patiently look forward to hearing from you soonest.
The red flags spotted:
In general, the pattern that we are seeing from these scammers is that they start with a short and legitimate looking message showing a general interest in the artist's works. Once the artist responds, the scammer then layout enough of the details of the scam that someone with some experience with these messages will see right through them. Unfortunately, a lot of artists don't have this experience. We have heard from a few artists who have followed through on these scams but have ultimately stopped before they lost money or artwork.
An artist just forwarded to me this message that was sent to them:
Name: john owen
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
HELLO i'm John Owen from North Carolina,I actually observed my wife has been viewing your site on my laptop,shes an art lover and i can see she has interest in your art piece.well I was also amazed after seeing your various works too. I would love to receive further information about your piece of work available for sale.Am interested in purchasing a piece to surprise her. So kindly confirm the availability for immediate sales. Thanks and my best regards. John
This an introductory message that has been sent to artists for years. If it is followed up by the artist it usually leads to the shipping scams that I've posted about previously. There isn't really a big red flag in the message itself although it does seem odd that someone who has looked through your website is asking you to provide more information based on what is for sale. Most people would ask about the availability of specific works.
What really stands out for me is that that I've seen this message, almost word for word many times before. Only the name and the location change.
Our previous post on a typical art scam generated a lot of response about the same person contacting them with the same message. The name used was Donald Cook with an email address of sonicnavigation11@
Here are some excerpts from a conversation that one artist had with "Donald":
How are you doing today? I really appreciate your mail and your works are so wonderful,i want to hang the paint in my new home in France as birthday gift to my lovely wife.
[Removed title of 1 painting]
Kindly get back to me with last asking price for all the works available as listed excluding the shipping cost.Due to my business policy i had a private shipping agent that handles my goods and she has been working with me for a very long time and i will appreciate if you could bear with me.
Importantly,i would advice you get back to me with your details, so i can issue out the cashier's cheque Canadian funds.Needed information 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, this will enable me to issue out the funds without any delay.
Have a wonderful day,
Text in  was removed to hide the identity of the artist.
The message had a lot of focus on payment and shipping but very little discussion of the works themselves. The request for "asking price of all works" when only one work was listed and that work has its asking price on the website suggested that this is a form message that "Donald" was filling in.
A later message that gets to the heart of the scam:
I really appreciate your understanding towards this transaction also with your patience..
I will like to inform you that i have contacted my shipper regarding the shipping process.I had a little problem which I hope you can help me out at this point.I got a message from my shipper that she does not have her credit card processing machine in good working condition with paypal.The only payment she can accept at the moment to make my other household items already with her also with the artworks order from you,I was instructed to make the payment via Bitcoin payment process, but I am in a remote area where I cannot be able to send payment except bank cheque now.
We decided to include the payment along with the total amount for your artwork and send the remaining balance to her to start will all the necessary shipping documentation arrangement before coming over to your location for the pick up.
Remember that the funds will cover customs charges with other international shipping charges that will occur during the shipping process.
So "Donald's" shipper has no credit card processing or any way to pay her other than Bitcoin? That's a new twist! Bitcoins are completely untraceable and are popular for many illicit transactions for this reason. "Donald" has no way to pay this shipper directly even though this is his shipper? He's running a business supposedly! There are enough red flags here for a marching band!
The key to this scam is that the shipper would get the Bitcoins sent to them before they picked up the artwork. Other versions of this scam used Western Union for this purpose. The shipper will never arrive and the artist will lose the value of those bitcoins and the "cashiers cheque" will bounce.
Luckily the artist recognized these issues at this point and ended the conversation.
Want to be kept updated on the latest art scams, sign up for our newsletter!
Here is a message that an ArtSites artist got this morning:
Am interested in your artworks because am an art lover, am so excited to search through your artworks online, it really attract my attention and am willing to purchase from you directly. I would appreciate your response for availability with total cost. cashier cheque payment will be issued upon your name before my shipping company come over for pickup.
This one has several really big red flags:
So the basic scam is about you sending money to "the shipper" via Western Union after you think that you've been given a "good as cash" cheque. That's when the scammer will disappear.