Sunday, July 21, 2013

Art Scams & Artists - Beware of "Bill Curry" and others like him!

Art Scams & Artists: There is no better teacher than experience in the school of life.

     This week I had a very interesting experience. I learned a lot from it and I hope that by sharing it, others can learn from it and not fall prey to Art (or other) SCAMS. As an artist, we are to some degree "public figures" and therefore apparently present ourselves as an easier potential target for scammers. People know that artists market, exhibit, and sell their work to clients and collectors who often were unknown to the artist until they contacted the artist to make a purchase. Most customers start out as "strangers," so selling to strangers is common practice in any business. 

Elaine Weiner-Reed (EWr) - "Common Threads I" - Mixed Media on Paper

     Scammers believe that there is an infinite pool of trusting people out there. Fortunately for me, I am cautions, while still trying to remain optimistic or trusting.

Following is my scam-avoided story:

     Art Scammer, BILL CURRY, invested more time than most in his spam email attack by tailoring it. The only mistake I made was in not researching him FIRST before losing some time in email exchanges.

     His approach (M.O.) was rather sophisticated; he has apparently done this often (or operates in a 'pack') using different aliases. He chooses a real painting by the target artist in question, says he is from California (or elsewhere, I presume), and then as you get drawn in, he starts the purchase rush-job because of his supposed work and imminent business transfer situations. In my case, Marketing Executive 'Bill' was leaving on a last-minute business trip to France. Then (he told me) at month's end, he would be moving to South Africa for a promotion!
     Needless to say, I questioned him about France (as you know--I love France!), about where he was moving in South Africa (Africa intrigues me), and congratulated him. Fortunately, as I said, I was cautious. I had gotten a P.O. box so that Mr. Curry would not have my home address. I had worked up pricing and drafted a formal art purchase agreement, and I requested a money order for the exact painting purchase amount (including state sales tax) be included with the signed, fully-filled-in contract. I specified that I could not calculate the final/full purchase amount until I had a shipping address for him or his agent/representative. At which point Bill informed me that he would -- for expediency and because he was ready to start his conference momentarily -- have to send me a certified check from his (unnamed) bank because they would not do money orders. Then, the icing on the cake: He indicated that "to kill two birds with one stone" he would write the check for the amount I specified PLUS increase the amount to include his mystery-shipper fees (again, he was very short on details). He would be most appreciative if I could then cut a check to his shipper for the difference and meet up with him (to be determined) in order to pay him and have him inspect the painting. He even had the gall to say he was doing this because he felt HE could trust ME...!

  Fortunately, I was on the alert, and with that latest proviso of his, I immediately sent him an email saying I could only accept the specified amount according to my accountant, that I would not pay his shipper, that I did not know when/if I could meet with his shipper, and that he should send/pay his shipper separately. I again emphasized that I would accept nothing until we had settled on all those very important details. Once I had sent that email, I began researching him and quickly found the links below and many others about him and his careful scam. Better late than never!  So, needless to say: I immediately emailed him again, with the word "Cancel" in the subject line, and (as if he cares!) admonished him politely (smile).

Read and beware:

 So, artists: Let us continue to help each other and alert others to such activities. Most importantly: Let us learn from each other and arm ourselves against the crooks. My lessons learned: Be alert, beware, do my research FIRST and ask for creds and details (as I did). 

On a positive note:
    I am out nothing. I have learned valuable life lessons AND I now have a prepared buyer contract and a P.O. Box for future credible art purchases.
                     ...And should an envelope appear in that new P.O. box..., I will report it to the USPS, mark it "RETURN TO SENDER," and promptly repost it unopened.

                                                                    Have a good week!