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Caveat venditor

Post #1091 • November 27, 2007, 7:57 AM • 13 Comments

Last week I received the following e-mail.

i will like to purchase some of your artwork as agift for my daughter whose wedding is coming up soon and i will like to inform you that my payment will be through cashier check if this is accepted by you kindly get back to me with your website address for me to choose from.

My reply:


Thank you for your interest. A cashier's check will be fine as long as it's in US dollars and made out for the exact price of the work plus shipping, which I will tally for you. (I will not refund any overage on the amount, as this is a common Internet fraud.)

Thanks again - I look forward to hearing from you.


Needless to say, I did not.

The linguistic infelicities are a red flag on something like this, but scammers only ever become more sophisticated (and sometimes, legitimate clients don't write well), so it's worth knowing the racket if you have your art posted online. It goes like this: the buyer produces a counterfeit cashier's check for an amount greater than the agreed-upon price. You quote $2000, he sends a check for $2400. When you tell him about the overage, he apologizes and asks you to include a check for the difference along with the art. You send him the art and a check for $400, his check turns out to be bogus, and you're out of luck. Especially when drawn on a foriegn bank, it can take a while for checks to clear - the scammer is hoping for a sufficiently long delay that you'll send the goods before you find out his check is bad. Afterwards you can run into trouble with your own bank for trying to deposit a fraudulent check.

You can either tell him what I told him or insist on being payed through PayPal. I've sold art and t-shirts through PayPal, and have bought a few things too (including my TMFOM ad at There are noticiable transaction costs (comparable to taking credit cards), but you can factor them into your prices, and thus far it has worked for me with perfect reliability.




November 27, 2007, 9:56 AM

A colleague had the same deal offered as payment through some Craig's List items he was selling. It is a fresh scam which will run its course like the rest.

BTW it wouldn't hurt to get your legitimate payments in Euros or Canadian dollars at this point in our economic history.



November 27, 2007, 10:45 AM

"Yet the spam keeps coming. Why?

According to a new survey of nearly 800 end users, comprising 34% corporate business users and 66% consumers, by Mirapoint and the Radicati Group, the answer is simple. Many of the people who claim to hate spam are supporting the practice by buying products from spammers."

The survey found that 11% of users purchase products and services from spam e-mails — even though 9% of users have lost money to e-mail scammers!"

Even if they don't buy products, 39% of users admit to clicking on embedded links within spam, other than the unsubscribe link. Clicking links within spam e-mail not only alerts the spammer that the e-mail address is active, it can direct users to Web sites that install viruses, spyware and other malicious code. Not surprisingly, 57% of respondents who click on spam links say they receive more spam."

The findings are even more perplexing than a study conducted this year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which found that 6% of Americans online buy from spammers."

There is only one effective way to stop spam. As Marcel Nienhuis of the Radicati Group says, "If people stop buying products from spam, spam would probably go away.""



November 27, 2007, 10:52 AM

Lovely. A reminder that the world is crawling with low-life scum posing as humans. As if any reminder were needed.



November 27, 2007, 11:04 AM

Yes, Jack, low life scum. But not much lower that the book-record-movie of the month clubs that have existed for eons that send you rpoduct and bill you for it, unless you remember to send in the cards they send you.


Marc Country

November 27, 2007, 11:25 AM

On the other hand, think of the bragging rights, when you can tell people your artwork is in the collection of a Nigerian prince...



November 27, 2007, 11:27 AM

Of course it is possible to want to buy something or respond to some spam, though I never have, but they will sell your address or worse. Best is to note the name of the company with the product and then search for it separately. That way you are not channeling through the spamming outfit.

Somewhat conversely, I have always found it best not to use any kind of spam blocking program because almost all of them block certain kinds of email you will want, such as large mailings from organizations you deal with. I get about 20 or so spam messages a day and just delete them. It takes 2 seconds.



November 27, 2007, 11:31 AM

I know that Nigerian prince, Marc. Poor fellow can't get his fortune out of his country, so I sent him all my financial information and he is depositing it all in my account. I get 25%. What a great deal!!



November 27, 2007, 1:01 PM

"If people stop buying products from spam, spam would probably go away."

Yes, and if people stopped buying and otherwise enabling crappy art, it would probably diminish considerably.




November 27, 2007, 1:56 PM

Writing back to scammers is a particular joy of mine. One scammer emailed me with the typical "business deal"--I need you to transfer my Swiss bank account funds into your account etc. etc. and I thought it would be fun to write back and act like I, too, was a successful businessman looking to make a deal. I started talking about all the funds I had shifting around from offshore account to offshore account, then invited the scammer stateside so we could “discuss the matter further” at one of my hotels because I liked his "go-getter style."

I got ultra specific, talking about how such-and-such private jet service would pick him up on this date, and how I'd leave a note with the concierge…such a delight. The scammer was pretty excited about all this, and I think I exchanged another email about the menu at our “working dinner” before I dropped it. I was trying to out-scam him…its amusing to think about what happens when a scammer tries to scam another scammer.

I can understand why people would fall for scammers, though--like a miracle, like art, scammers appear from parts unknown to transport you out of your life.

See this article:


Rod Hughes

November 28, 2007, 2:43 PM

I just came across a comment you submitted to the Winkler blog in late October regarding the Costa Rican artist who may or may not have let a dog starve to death as part of an exhibition. You were right, probably, not to have used the artist's name on your blog. You were dead wrong about questioning the legitimacy of the Costa Rican newsfeed. (American-European Real Estate)The writer is a semi-retired newsman and a graduate of the University of Oregon Journalism School. The articles on the newsblog are factual summaries of news in the country with some background information It is presented as a service to give readers interested in the country an overview. Wherever the facts may be wrong or cannot be verified by the writer, sources are cited.
Check yours before questioning accuracy.



November 28, 2007, 2:54 PM

The blog I submitted the comment to was that of Edward Winkleman. Sorry, were you saying something about accuracy?



November 28, 2007, 3:49 PM

does anyone remember the website (a few years ago?) where someone documented scamming a scammer. as i remember, the original scammer was looking to sell carved wood sculptures, and the guy who received the message pretended to be a dealer with a gallery. he said he wanted to buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of the scammer's art, but first he needed proof that the guy could deliver. so he asked for samples, and had the guy carve things like bart simpson or some such things to a specific scale. when the objects arrived, he then (fake) documented, through fixed photos, that the objects were not the correct scale. then he asked for more. it was hilarious. then i think the website disappeared. as for me, i'd rather not write back, though i can see that it's tempting.



November 28, 2007, 7:36 PM

419 Eater



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