Many of you already know about Internet scams, but I need to emphasize the importance of being vigilant and asking a lot of questions when someone expresses interest in your art through email.
Christine DeCamp received this email from Jene Thobela (I have no problem using the author's name because I doubt she exists):
Hope this message finds you well.
I saw these creatives works on your web site and i will like you to get back with more details if they are still available for purchase.
“Lady of Shallot” and “WHITE PELICAN”
I will appreciate an urgent reply.
Best Regards, Jene.
Obviously the author took the time to identify particular works from Christine's site.
4 Signs of an Art Scam
There are at least four red flags in this message Christine received.
- The author of the email didn't address Christine by name.
- The English is poor. This isn't in itself a red flag, but it looks copied and pasted.
- If the author had really spent time on the site, she would have noticed that White Pelican was already sold.
- The author asks for an “urgent reply.” Really? What's so urgent about this art purchase?
We want to believe the best about people. We want to trust them and believe they want our art. It's hard to think that a big fish might get away because we were suspicious.
Still . . . you have to look out for yourself!
How to Respond to a Possible Art Scam
Knowing the scams out there, most artists would delete emails like this right away. If you'd like to give the author of such an email the benefit of the doubt, I'd make them do a little a lot of work. Here's how you could respond:
Thank you for your kind interest in my art.
Can you tell me what appeals to you about those two pieces in particular?
Where do you live and what other kind of art do you collect?
I look forward to hearing from you,
Most scammers won't spend their time coming up with honest answers to questions like these. Most scammers will be found out with another go-round of questioning.
Or how about this:
Please tell me where you live and include a phone number. What is the best time of day to call you?
I prefer to have a personal conversation with potential buyers.
You could develop a form letter for such questions or even an online form for the person to complete.
You could also, as Kathleen McMahon suggests, say you accidentally lost the original email and “could you please remind me which works you are interested in?” See if she can come up with the same two titles again.
Of course, there are numerous variations of the above email fraud. See the Stop Art Scams blog for more.
Have you had a close call with an art scammer? How did you handle it?