How To Spot An Email Art Scam: The Fake Client
by Daric Gill
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably opened up your email to find a new message from a ‘potential art buyer’ that seems too-good-to-be-true. Something feels a little off. Maybe the message is vague or the request is strangely generic-sounding. Or maybe they ask for a questionable payment method. You wonder, “Is this real or is it a scam?” This article will help you spot the scam and show you things to avoid.
1. The Short-Vague Email
This email is short–really short. And really vague. In one sentence, they say they found you online (but not where), compliment your quality in an unspecific way, ask you for a quote but on nothing in particular, or ask you to pick a piece that is ideal for them instead of suggesting one themselves. It’s so short and gives you so little to go on, you wonder if you should follow up with more questions. But, if it’s so generic that there’s literally nothing specific to you, it’s most likely a mass email.
2. The Weird-Vague Surprise Purchase
The emailer says that they’ve seen their wife (or someone else) looking at your website and they want to buy it for them in secret. Sometimes they mention a piece by title, but most often it’s just a generic request. While plausible at first glance, their wording is both vague and bizarre. This phrase shows up a lot: “I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website…”. Even when they suggest something by name, it feels like an impersonal mass email with the info from your website plugged in. If you see this, it’s most likely a scam.
3. Check The Email Address
Is their contact info misleading? A common ploy is to pose as PayPal or Square, with an unexpected refund request from your online shop. The email looks official, with clickable links to enter your username and password. However, there hasn’t been a sale to refund or the amount is so outrageous it simply can’t be real. Scroll up or click on the contact name to see their actual email address. If this is an unexpected refund request from “PayPal” but after clicking on the name you see the email address is email@example.com — it’s safe to say it isn’t legit.
4. Weird Shipping Agents & Unorthodox Payment Processes?
This one is confusing on purpose. The ‘buyer’ says they are relocating to a new country and have to send you a cashier’s check. Either by ‘accident’ or under a thin veil of reason, the amount paid will be more than what the artwork is worth. They will suggest simply using the excess money to cover the cost of shipping the art through a future (and unnamed) shipping agent. Of course, any check will bounce, leaving you to foot the shipping bill while things are being figured out. The typical play by the scammer is to keep you on the hook, hoping that you simply pay the courier (them) the extra amount PLUS your artwork. In reality, they got paid to steal your artwork. This is a scam! Do not continue to correspond.
5. Asking Too Much Info
Even after supposedly being on your website, which may include your formal resume, they need more information. A few scammers explain that for the sale to happen, they need your full name, address, bank account info, and who-knows-what-else. They may explain that it’s for a wire transfer. Other times there are no explanations at all. Either way, never give out your personal info. Especially if you don’t trust that this is legit.
6. Spelling, Spacing, & Grammatical Errors
Not everyone may be native speakers of your language. Even less are great spellers. I get it. However, most spam emails are riddled with errors. Sentences are often cut in half and indented onto the next line, pronouns are not capitalized, and words are misspelled. If most of the basic contexts are muddled up and you see other red flags that indicate more than simple translation issues, you are right to at least question its validity.
7. Trust Your Gut
If you have an unsettling vibe from an email, but can’t quite put your finger on it, don’t respond right away. Let some time pass so you don’t let the prospect of a new sale cloud your judgment. If you can, ask a friend to look at it and get their opinion. If the email is pressuring you to make a call right away but is giving you an uneasy feeling… trust your gut.
Here are some actual examples of SCAM emails I’ve received. See if you can spot some of the problems.
1) Dear, Thanks for the message.. I must tell you I intend to give my wife a surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece. Also If you'd like to know, I'm relocating to the Philippines soon and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. So I'm trying to gather some good stuff to make this event a surprise one..I'm okay with the painting and the price (Absolute pitch $8000) I think it's worth it anyway, so I'll be sending a check... As regarding shipping, you don't have to worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the surprise. as soon as you receive and cash the check, my shipping agent (who is also moving my personal effect) will contact you to arrange pick-up.. I would have come to purchase the piece myself but, at the moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean (I'm an ocean engineer) with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and won't be back for another couple of weeks.. Regards! PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your full name (you want the check payable to) cell phone no. and contact address (preferably for USPS OR UPS not P.O box) where a check can be mailed to so I can get the check prepared and have it mailed out to you asap.. Thank you!
2) My name is Steve Simpson from Massachusetts. I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website on my laptop and i guess she likes your piece of work, I'm also impressed and amazed to have seen your various works too, : ) You are doing a great job. I must tell you, I will like to purchase some of your work for my wife as a surprise gift for our 20th anniversary. Please confirm the availability of this piece "Absolute: Memory” for immediate sales. So i will be hoping to hear a lots more about this piece. Thanks and best regards, Steve."
3) Hello, I got your contact through my research on web I want a quote and i would like to know your availability sothat we can send you necessary documents as well as drawings and specification, and will like to review your Product Catalog Looking forward for your productive response. Thanks & Regards Andre Mark Marketing Manager
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