However powerful and meaningful the work of an artist, selling art is similar to any other business transaction (though of the fortunate type in which both parties benefit!). The result is that selling art is open to all the kinds of scams any other business may be threatened by. Sad but true – and especially important to bear in mind at the moment.
The reason is that there is a particular scam going around at the moment which specifically targets artists and photographers. It’s actually very similar to previous attempts on places like Craig’s List and Ebay, but the difference is that this one is more careful in who it aims at. If you’re an artist or a photographer – beware, they could go for you.
The way it works is actually very simple, although the consequences can be expensive. First, the artist or photographer is contacted by someone claiming to be interested in buying a specific print or piece of artwork. They may even link their web page to the particular work under discussion, so don’t let that fool you. This IS targeted. The next stage is that they say they have sent a cheque to pay for the piece, including the price of shipping. They then request the artist to deposit the cheque and also make a Western Union transfer to their preferred shipping company – something that sounds completely legitimate, like ‘federal shipping’ or ‘global exports’ or similar.
Of course, what happens next is the usual story. The cheque bounces, so you get nothing, and it proves impossible to recover the ‘shipping money’, which could have been in the thousands of dollars.
Please bear this in mind when you are approached directly by new customers online and be cautious in your dealings with them. Of course, if you’re working through a gallery, this is much less of a problem, because you can rely on the gallery to vet their clients appropriately and help you keep yourself safe. But if you’re not, or if you have friends or family who are artists or photographers, let them know about this too. With this kind of thing going round, it’s important to protect each other. Spread the word!