THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
Miriam Schulman: According to The New York Times, there is about $124 million in damages from more than 40,000 cases involving fraudulent foreign money orders or fake checks. Now, I don’t know, and the article did not know, how much of this is from artwork versus other types of money scams. So, I would imagine that this would also apply if you’re selling anything on the internet. For example, if you are on Facebook Marketplace or doing any kind of thing, so just be careful about this kind of scam in general. It’s not just us artists who are vulnerable to it.
Speaker 2: It’s the Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Shulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an Art World Insider podcast for artists, by an artist, where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now, your host, Miriam Shulman.
Miriam Schulman: Well, hey there! It’s Miriam Schulman here, your Curator of Inspiration, and you’re listening to Episode #254. Today we’re talking all about art scams. Hopefully, none of these have plagued you and you’ve been smart enough to rise above. We’ll be getting into those in a moment but before we get there, I just wanna catch up a little bit. I know this is coming out in the middle of April, and the book has been out since the end of January, but I’m recording this at the end of March, so you’re a whole month ahead of me. I just wanted to thank everyone so much who has taken the time to rate and review the book, “Artpreneur.” As of this recording, there are 97 reviews on Amazon, which is crazy for less than 2 months, so I’m very, very grateful. Thank you, especially to those who have left 5-star reviews because those are the ones that really tell Amazon, “Hey, this is a book that I recommend,” so thank you for one and all who have left a review. I have gifted everyone who has sent me a screenshot of the review with 52 Art Journal Prompts, so if you need a little bribe to leave a review, there’s that. I will send that your way if you send me a screenshot to email@example.com. I’ll send you the 52 Art Journal Prompts, and that’s even if you’ve already left one but didn’t know that was a thing. So there you go with that. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for all that. Now, art scams, not something I included in the book. There’s only so much I could say. That’s why I’m so happy I can come here week after week and share with you what’s new, what’s going on in the art world, and art scams are actually nothing new. But they’re still here, and there’s more of them than ever before, which is why we are talking about them today. So let’s go.
All right, so first of all, we’re going to talk about the “I want to send my wife” or “I want to surprise my wife with some art” scam. Now, this one has been around for a very long time. We used to call this the Nigerian art scam because it was mostly people from Nigeria who were doing this. There was a whole economy there. I don’t think it’s just limited to that area of the country who is perpetuating this scam. So this is the way the scam is going to work. It used to always be email. At one point when I was selling my art on eBay, so this is how long the scam has been around. It’s been around at least since 2006, so almost, what is that, 15-18 years? Long time. And the reason why this scam has been around a long time is that unfortunately, it works on people. And in fact, it came to my attention in The New York Times. This was “Fake buyers are fishing in the art world,” dated on March 20th, 2023. And the way this scam works is the fake buyer – we’re going to say fake buyer because he has no intention of buying your art – I’m so sorry, but this is how it works.
He or she, but usually, they pose as a male, reaches out to you either on email or Instagram or some other messaging platform. So that’s why it happened on eBay. It could also possibly happen on Etsy, but it’s more likely going to happen either through your email or through Instagram because those places are less gated and on a place like Etsy, in order to message a seller, you need to have your own account, so it’s harder for them to do those scams. So the way that they’ll do it is they’ll say, “I saw that my wife was looking at your artwork.”. Usually that. And the reason why they say the wife, and sometimes it’ll be the other way around where it’s a woman saying it’s for the husband, the reason they do that is that later on throughout the scam, they are going to say that they can’t pay by credit card because they don’t want their partner to see the charge. But the first red flag is they usually will say, “My wife was looking at the art.” The second red flag is when they say, “Would you please send me details of some of your pieces?” Now, this is ridiculous. If they’re looking on your website, and if you’ve listened to any of my podcasts, you should already have your prices on the website. And this is always the red flag to me because all my prices are on my website. They’re all listed over there.
So they want to know the prices, and somehow, for some mysterious reason, they don’t have it, and they always want a few or your most expensive pieces. So usually, they want things totaling in the thousands of dollars. And for an emerging artist who is most vulnerable to these kinds of scams, this is going to get them very excited. Unfortunately, this is why this scam works. Here is how the scam continues. A lot of times, they’ll say they are moving. Now, it used to always be back in the day that they’re moving to Africa. I don’t know why they chose Africa all the time. Like I said, probably because it was the night we called it the Nigerian scam. But now, I heard that they will pick other places. They’re moving to the Philippines or they’re moving here. Why the moving? So we established first of all, why do they say the wife was looking at it is because they want to say they’re surprising them, and they want to establish a reason why they are not paying by credit card, but they’re going to pay by a cashier’s check instead. Now, the reason why they usually introduce the idea that they are moving is always an exotic location because they want to establish that it’s going to be very expensive to ship the artwork to this place. So they don’t want you to do it.
Here’s how the scam works. They want their person to do it. So what they’ll say is something like this: “Okay, so you have art totaling $3,200 that we want to buy, and we are going to send you a cashier’s check for $5,000. And then I want you to pay my courier who’s going to pick up the artwork $1,000 in cash.” Sometimes they will do it a different way where they will say, “We want you to send a money order to the courier.” It used to always be that the person would come to collect the cash and the artwork. I think the reason they stopped doing this is because that is a great way for a law enforcement officer to now get involved if you’re wise in the scheme. So the schemes have kind of shifted a little bit. Now it’s sending a money order. Notice they said $3,200 for your artwork, $1,000 for the courier. And then if once you point out, “Oh, wait, that’s too much, there’s an extra 1000,” they’ll say something like, “Oh, well, you can keep that for your trouble or something like that.” So it doesn’t always work out exactly that you are giving the difference above your artwork to them.
Now. You say, “What could go wrong?” It’s a cashier’s check. What happens is, when you deposit the check to your bank, you’re depositing it against your own reserves. So they will give you the money if you have an account for that check or maybe you’re not going to the bank, you’re just putting it into your account. And so, for a short time, it will go in. But what will happen is, it will take some time for that to clear, and the check always bounces. Not right away, but eventually. And this is after you’ve already, if you’ve fallen for their scheme, you’ve already paid them the money order or the cash, and now you’re out of cash and you’re out of artwork. So, usually, a couple of thousand dollars. So, that is scheme number one.
Now, according to The New York Times, there is about $124 million in damages from more than 40,000 cases involving fraudulent foreign money orders or fake checks. Now, I don’t know, and the article did not know how much of this is from artwork versus other types of money scams. So, I would imagine that this would also apply if you’re selling anything on the Internet. For example, if you are on Facebook Marketplace or doing any kind of thing. So, just be careful about this kind of scam in general. It’s not just us artists who are vulnerable to it. It also doesn’t say in the article, and I wish that it did, like how what time period that money is but they also said there were more than 255 million phishing attacks in 2022. 255 million. That’s a heck of a lot through email, mobile and other online channels, which is 61% higher than the rate of phishing attacks the company trailed a year before. So these attacks are on the rise.
Now, I want to give you—that was just the first one. That is the most common one that is targeting artists.
But now there’s a second version of it, and it is people who want to buy your art as an NFT. I don’t know the particulars of how that works, but listen, anything that sounds too good to be true usually is. And if they’re messaging you on Instagram to convert your art into an NFT, most likely it’s a different form of the same kind of scam. And it probably involves some sort of money order exchange for turning it into an NFT because you don’t know how to turn it into an NFT. So, just be very careful that this is the second kind of scam. So I’m calling the first one the Nigerian art scam, simply because that’s what it used to be long ago. Always art going to Nigeria. I don’t know why, I think it’s maybe because that economy actually it’s not a strong economy and there is a lot of fraud that comes out of there. People who are actually making a full-time living this way. Okay, the second one is the NFT. Now, the third one isn’t particular at all to artists, but I just wanted to put this in there because it happens so often and I wanted to make sure that you are not naive and you are protected.
And this is the way the third scam looks: You will get an email. Okay, you know what? I think I need to expand this to four scams. Okay, so the third one is about they’ll send you even a receipt saying your Geek Squad has been processed or your Amazon order has been fulfilled. And it’s for a lot of money, like maybe it’s for something for a $400 Geek Squad renewal or it’s a $1,000 charge on Amazon, something like that, that you would be like, “Oh my God, I didn’t order Geek Squad or I didn’t order this thing on Amazon.” And of course, they have a phone number and an email in there that you can contact. You’ll usually notice that the email that’s coming to you will be something like firstname.lastname@example.org. So in other words, it’s not coming from geeksquad.com, it is coming from a made-up email. So they also have a phone number on there. And the way these scams work is they want you to either email them back or call them to say, “Hey, this isn’t my charge.” And they’ll be like, “Customer service, don’t worry, we’ll take care of it for you. We just need your details to verify.” And that’s how they’re going to get your name, any of your vital information, perhaps whatever they’re asking for. So it could be used for identity theft, or they just want your password information. So maybe they just want your birth dates or your Social Security number or perhaps they actually want your credit card details, one or the other.
All right, then I mentioned that there is the fourth one. So this is going to be the bonus scam. And this happens to a lot of people, especially if you are advertising on social media or not just advertising. If you’re on social media and that’s the your account has been shut down or you’ve been flagged for violations, something that looks like it’s coming from Instagram or Facebook. The way this works is if you click into that email, they want you to put in your email and password to Instagram or Facebook, depending on what it is, and that’s how they capture your login information so they can hack into your account.
Okay, so there you have it. Those are the four most common scams that target artists and people who are on the internet in general. I hope that you found a lot of value in this episode. If you like it, make sure that you subscribe, follow. If you’re on YouTube, give it a thumbs up or comment below if you’ve been targeted with any of these schemes. If you’re listening to this on The Inspiration Place podcast, just send me a DM @schulmanart. That’s S-C-H-U-L-M-A-N-A-R-T. Send me a DM. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you and I’d love to connect with you. All right, my friend. Until next time, stay inspired.
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