We all know internet art scams exist, but sometimes it’s easy to forget about the warning signs with the excitement of a potential sale.

Art scammers play on your emotions and desire to make a living from your art.

This sickening strategy allows them to either steal your original works, money, or both. It’s crucial to know the signs and how to protect yourself, so you can continue to benefit from legitimate online opportunities. And, continue to sell your art to a whole new audience of interested, REAL buyers.

How to tell if you’ve received an art scam email:

1. Impersonal Stories

The sender uses a story to hook you about their wife liking your work or wanting art for a new home, but it sounds stunted and impersonal. A big tip off is that they do not even address you by name, but simply start with “Hello”. This way they can send the same email to thousands of artists.

2. A Foreign Emailer

The sender usually claims to live in another country — far from where you live — to make sure the art has to be shipped. This is all part of their dastardly plan.

3. A Sense of Urgency

The sender claims they need your art quickly. That way the art will be shipped before you find out the check or credit card details are fraudulent.

4. A Fishy Request

The request doesn’t add up. For instance, the sender wants to buy three pieces and asks for prices and dimensions, but doesn’t include the pieces’ names. Or, they want to purchase a piece that is marked as sold on your website. It will reek of suspicious activity.

5. Poor Language

The email is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors and doesn’t flow as a normal email should.

6. Strange Spacing

The email is oddly spaced. This means the weasel carelessly copied and pasted the same message to thousands of artists, hoping some will fall for the scam.

7. A Cashier’s Check Request

The sender insists that they can only pay by cashier’s check. These checks will be fake and you could be blamed when your bank discovers the fraud. However, by the time this happens the scammer will have already received your art.

8. Outside Shipping Wanted

They want to use their own shipper–which is usually a fake shipping company that is in on the scam. They often say they are moving and will have their moving company pick up your artwork.

Remember that a scam email might not have all of these signs, but go with your gut. Scammers can be clever, so stick with the old adage: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Ceramics artist Liz Crain shares the type of email you need to avoid on her Facebook page.

How to protect yourself:

1. Research the Email

Type the email into Google to see if anyone else has received the same fishy correspondence. Art Promotivate has detailed this approach here. You can also look at the bank of scam messages compiled on the Stop Art Scams blog or check artist Kathleen McMahon’s scammer names list here.

2. Ask the Right Questions

If you are uncertain of the email’s legitimacy, ask for the sender’s phone number and say you prefer to speak directly with potential buyers. Or, insist that you can only receive money via PayPal. This will almost definitely put an end to the scammer’s interest.

3. Keep Personal Information Private

Make sure you never give personal information out–such as bank details or credit card information–to facilitate a transaction. According to art business expert and photographer John R. Math, “If you share this type of information with scammers, they will use it to set up new accounts and commit fraud with your identity.” Instead, use something like PayPal.  You can read why Lawrence Lee uses PayPal and has handled many Artwork Archive transactions through it here.

4. Don’t Continue - Even if It’s Tempting

Don’t go down the rabbit hole of playing along. Artist Liz Crain recommends not responding at all, not even with a “no thank you.” If you go through a few emails only to realize it’s a scam, stop all contact.

5. Know the Scam and Never Wire Money

If you are tricked to the point where the scammers have taken your artwork and “overpaid” by accident, never wire them the money back. Your repayment money will go through to them, but the original check or credit card details they sent you will be fake. This is how their scam succeeds.

Have you ever been faced with a scammer? How did you handle it?

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