It is unbelievable that there are people out there that try to take advantage of artists (or any innocent persons) in this world. Fortunately, I recognized the signs and did not fall victim to their ploy. Here is the story of how a scam-artist tried to con me out of my hard earned money – and how other artists can be made aware of it and look out for themselves as well.
Kijiji. Yes, I began to use Kijiji to post ads about paintings I wished to sell. There is nothing new about people using Kijiji to scam people out of their money – and I was aware of this going in. However, I theorized that if I held all of the cards, I had nothing to lose.
Almost immediately people began to take notice of my advertisements and I began to receive great feedback from potential buyers through emails. I have a wide range of artwork that I advertise as being for sale: from small charcoal drawings, to pastels, watercolours, and large oil paintings… one person stepped out of the crowd and showed a strong interest in one of my main pieces of art from my “Hockey’s Masked Men” collection (a painting of New York Rangers goaltender John Davidson).
Through email the man asked reasonable questions about the paintings condition, how it was made, and how the transaction should be done. Great, he cares, he knows what he’s talking about, and he wants to make sure that ‘he’ doesn’t get cheated out of ‘his’ money the same way I don’t.
Kijiji always says to “meet in person,” though, I wasn’t buying – I was selling. This particular client was from Montreal (a real hockey town if you ask me), and couldn’t meet in person. We spoke over the phone, he was going to send me a cashier’s check, and have a delivery man pick up the artwork. As long as the money went through correctly, I was happy… and I gave him enough of my own information to make him comfortable sending the money. As soon as I received the money and made sure that it was accepted by my bank I would let him know that everything was good.
Normally, I offer to package and mail my artwork to my customers. I’m able to purchase insurance on the package in case anything mishap occurs during the delivery – and I receive a tracking code that I can send to my customer for both of us to follow. I’m happy with this, but this particular client decided that he would rather have his own agent pick up the artwork and deliver it for him. It’s different, but artwork is expensive and this guy seems to care about getting the artwork safely and in good fashion. Fine by me.
So he sends the check through mail. It was taking a few days to come and I made a mental note to phone him if it still hadn’t arrived the next day. I wanted to make sure that he knew that I hadn’t abandoned him as soon as the money arrive. However, I received a text that night:
“Hi Michael John Slotwinski, (Guys Name) by name. I believe you should have received Laurentienne Bank $2850.10. I await for your text so we can finalized the transaction in a good faith.”
Woops, did I do something wrong somewhere down the line? I’m currently working with a number of different people at the same time – perhaps there was a misconception through one of our emails, perhaps I believed I was speaking to a different client when we spoke on the phone, perhaps I gave my PayPal transaction information to this guy as well?
I checked my email, no, I made no mistake. I checked my Pay Pal Account and Banking balance…. No, nothing has changed. I had better read that text again.
Now, what you should understand is that when I first read the text, I read it quickly, and my head exploded when I thought that I had potentially made a business mistake. I didn’t see any of his grammatical errors or think that anything was out of place (besides the amount of money he put down). I thought that I was at fault somehow and quickly rushed to figure out what I had done wrong. I thought I had covered everything, what could it be?
Well, it wasn’t me. And as I reread the text I noticed a lot of Red Flares that began to appear. First off, his grammar and English became atrocious. Secondly, our method of transaction apparently changed? Thirdly, he overpaid. As well, the line about doing everything in ‘good faith’ suddenly struck me. It sounded out of place all of a sudden – to me it sounds like the type of language telephone solicitor’s use. And finally, his phone number wasn’t from Montreal, it was from the United States.
Quickly, everything came into place in my head. He’s scamming me! But, I’m a nice guy, I’d still prefer that this was all just a big misunderstanding – so I contacted him again to try and clear things up. In my message I let him know that I hadn’t received anything in the mail yet, and that the price he texted me was more than what we agreed upon.
I wanted to be sure that I wrote about everything that should have happened – and everything that he had done incorrectly in my message. It’s always good to cover all of the bases and have documented proof that there was no foul play on my end (should this guy approach me with any wrong doing or potential legal action). Perhaps I was overthinking it, but it’s better being safe than sorry.
Almost immediately I received another text: “So did you get it?”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Did he even read my text? It was obvious then that this guy was a scammer. Perhaps it was even a bunch of people working together – it was as though they forgot all of our previous messages and conversations. Nothing was adding up, and this type of response was so unprofessional and out of place.
So what was the scam? Here it is – as far as I can tell:
Step One: He wants to buy my artwork (one of my most expensive pieces).
Step Two: He agrees with all of my terms and plays everything safely, acting as a real client would.
Step Three: He tells me that he’s sending a cashier’s check through the mail. Fine, I’ll just wait for it to be accepted.
Step Four: He accidentally sends the check through normal mail rather than express mail. Oops, but he needs the painting fast. He asks that I him as soon as the check arrives in order for him to send his agent over to pick up the artwork. (Notice how he has someone else doing all of the handling for him?)
Step Five: He then informs me that the transaction has gone through. Perhaps he screwed up and forgot that it was supposed to go through the mail, or perhaps he’d believe some people don’t know how banking transactions work – and just believe him (in good faith)…
Step Six: He would wait for me to inform him that he texted me the wrong amount of money… in fact, he sent me well over twice as much as he should have.
Step Seven: Oops, he made a mistake. He’d ask me if I could send him back the difference. And, since I’m an unsuspecting nice guy – ‘Sure thing!’
Step Eight: Either a delivery man picks up my artwork or he just ignores it all together. Fact is, he just received money from me and made a profit. But how?
Well, since he sent me an American Cashier’s Check, my bank would put it on hold for half a month. This allows the bank to run it through their system and make sure that it’s a real check. However, it’s actually fake, or, the guy won’t have enough money in his balance. The bank would inform me that the check was void, or bounced, and that I wouldn’t receive the money. By then the guy would be long gone with the ‘excess’ amount of money I sent him back for overpaying.
He makes a profit, I lose money and my artwork, and he resells it.
I caught onto his game before he robbed me. Luckily, all I lost was time, effort, and happiness. I hope that other artists notice this post and learn from it. Always cover your bases, hold all of the cards, don’t budge on the original deal if it begins to suddenly change, and document everything. Thank you for reading.