Artists Beware-Art Phishing

Artists have more to fear than their work vanishing from the shelves.

If you’re like me, you probably fell in love with Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair.  The thrill of high stakes art theft and Brosnan’s smooth charm is an irresistible combination. There’s another type of theft involving alleged foreign buyers and impossible deadlines, however there’s nothing debonair or sexy about the real world problem of phishing in the art world.

Photographer, Susan Stoll, alerted me to art phishing. Several contributing artists to Auburn Old Town Gallery had experienced phishing attacks. As Sandy Lindblad explained,

“Someone contacted me about wanting to buy artwork. She wanted my physical address and my full name. She offered to pay more than my asked price. She never gave me her physical address. She wanted me to pay the extra amount to her shipper.”

When Diane Tharp received a check via registered mail, she knew it was a scam. Not only was the check printed on a piece of copy paper and it was $1,000 over the asking price. She asked the buyers what to do about the extra cash and they replied that their bookkeeper made an error. She could send them a check for the overpayment. Diane contacted the postal service instead. They explained that there were so many scams it was impossible to follow up on them.

These buyer inquiries with vague details, use of a shipper and offer of excessive payment for the artwork, reflects the classic traits of a phishing scam. Other signs of a possible phishing scam include:

*The buyer requests bank information for a money wire.

*Tight deadline–an attempt to push you into a timeframe that is uncomfortable,

*Email contains abrupt sentences, grammar and spelling errors.

*Instead of being a direct purchase, the buyer claims to be in a foreign country and wants to use a shipper for the transaction

Sylviane Giacoletto noticed as her presence became more widely known through magazine articles and membership associations, the volume of scams increased from a few per year to at least once a month. “…since more artists are trying to reach out through social media, they expose themselves more and therefore are easier targets.”

Dana Biello-Barro noted “…this is not just happening to artists with a web presence, but it also happens with our vacation rental business—Vrbro and Airbnb platforms.”

How can artists protect themselves from phishing?

  1. Use Paypal or Square for online transactions.
  2. Get as much information regarding the buyer as possible. Diane Tharp googled a potential buyer’s address and discovered it was a huge mansion for sale on the East Coast.
  3. Increase awareness. The Abundant Artist, Art Business Info– are excellent resources.

Consumers can further support the art community by purchasing art from local artists. Many galleries and co-ops are open on a limited basis or are accessible on-line. The artists who shared their stories for this post have their work at the Auburn Old Town Gallery. If you happen to be going East on Highway 80 headed toward Reno, I’d strongly recommend a stop at the Auburn Old Town Gallery.  You can also check on their on-line store.

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