I do a lot of my business through e-mail and website, I will get requests from complete strangers for paintings and commissions, These paintings are often for wedding gifts, anniversary or birthdays, the client can often not know much about art or be sure how it works or what they want. There is of course a deal of trust on both sides, but common sense is also required to protect myself. Usually I build up some rapport with art buyers & will get to know then afterwards. Art is not just another commodity, people like the context, the story behind the painting & the creative process, it means something to them and to me the artist.
So when Matthew Joe e-mailed me asking about a painting for a wedding anniversary gift for his parents, there was nothing unusual in this, his grammar indicated that english was not the first language, while he had an english sounding name. Suspicion was aroused by him asking for my web address, so why would he want my art if he hadn’t already seen it ? where has he got my e-mail from if not the website ? I gave him the details of artwork available & to hand, but he chose two water themed paintings off the website- a simple misunderstanding as these are only available as prints I explained. However this sentence, which he repeated twice was not right-
“Meanwhile, I don’t want you to bother your self concerning the shipment i have a shipping company come for the pickup in your gallery also they will be the one to make the packing, just get back to me with the price of the art work so that we can make some progress.”
which shipping company ? only a select few shipping companies operate on the west here, why didn’t he mention their name? if he was a big business man why not have company details on his e-mails ? why use a yahoo AND gmail e-mail address ?
He then chose another 6 paintings from the available list, 6 paintings? for a wedding anniversary gift ? what eclectic taste his parents have, waterfalls, technical firefighting image, fairy story whimsy and abstract landscape? I had by this time googled his e-mail address’s;
and found ‘him’ on a list of scammers;
I couldn’t work out what the catch was, If I waited for a cheque to clear? didn’t give account details etc. So it turns out it works like this, they order something to buy, using a third party for shipping or such, send a cashier cheque, which the banks may well cash, but later you will be liable when it turns out to be a fake.. but its not the artwork they’re after, they send ‘extra’ payment in the cheque to cover the shipping, you have to sent the balance via western union, which of course is you out of pocket, as there is no shipping company. It seems he is targeting all the members of the Highland Open Studios Directory.
more information about fraud etc here
I am furious! at no point did I believe I was going to sell hundreds of ££’s worth of art, I am not one to count chickens. But to try & rip off an artist ? according to the Scottish Artists Union the average wage of a Scottish artist is £5K per annum, I earn a lot less from mine. We are not exactly the decadent capitalists of the western world. Also artists, being poor, artistic natured & optimists might well be easy prey, also the internet is a wonderful useful tool, but criminals like this leave a whole generation afraid of computers, left out in the cold because they’ve seen on crime watch about ID theft, scammers, viruses all those urban myths and scare stories. It’s almost designed to stop people using the potential of the internet, people who are afraid are easier to control, people who are afraid are more likely to turn on each other. Most humans are good, most humans are trustworthy and genuine, scams like this disgust me because they prey upon hope and trust.
I’m blogging as it seems about all I can do to vent my anger, although I intend stringing Matthew along a bit more to waste some of his time, I wish there was an e-mail version of a football whistle blown down the phone. I guess the internet is a bit like the wild west, a whole new frontier with carpet baggers, freak shows, houses of ill repute, gambling, snake oil peddlers, criminal gangs, cons, thugs, but mostly good people just trying to make a living.