Scams are not limited to photographers, but some scams may prey on photographers’ desire to sell prints or license images. Check what happened to one talented photographer, Roberta Olenick. She reports:
I got an email from someone wanting prints of two of my images. Turns out it was a scam that has been going on for some years now according to stopartscams.blogspot.ca.
The scammers say they want to buy your artwork and ask you to send them the price and your address and phone number so they can send payment to you. They then send way more than the amount owing on some trumped up excuse and ask you to refund them the difference via Western Union. Of course, funds sent that way can never be traced and the check they send you is always fraudulent and from a bank that can take some weeks before that is discovered. If you fall for this scam, they hope you send them the refund before you ever discover the fraudulence of their payment to you.
[In my case] I got an email from Daniel Lachlan firstname.lastname@example.org late September asking for large prints of two of my photos. Something about his poor English (coupled with his very Anglo name) and the mention of him moving to Turkey made me suspicious so I googled his name at that time and nothing came up.
Fortunately for me, two things conspired to save me from his scamming, which I nearly fell for. First was that the images he requested were captured years ago on film and I was not sure they would upsize well to the large dimension he requested. And second was that when he first emailed I was just heading out of town on an extended photoshoot where I had no internet access. So I told him he would have to wait until I got back and that on my return I would make a test print of a small section of each image to see if they would work at the large size he requested. These two things together delayed my confirming any sale to him until after the name Daniel Lachlan came up on stopartscams.blogspot.ca.
He kept insisting repeatedly on getting my address and cell number so he could send payment even though I had not yet determined if the images he wanted would even print OK. That should have been a clue but I just ignored the uneasiness I was starting to feel.
He kept pushing to know the final price so he could send a certified check. I told him numerous times I needed his mailing address where I would be sending the prints so I could determine what shipping cost to add to the print cost; he kept resisting giving me his address yet insisting on me giving him mine. I just brushed that off as misunderstanding based on his poor English.
Eventually he explained there would be no shipping costs as his movers would pick up the prints directly from me. I thought that was strange – why would his movers come all the way to the other side of the country from where he claimed he lived just to pick up two prints? And really I was not at all comfortable with the idea of some strange “mover” coming to my studio just like that. But I still was not pegging him as a scammer. Boy, am I naïve!
So I went ahead and made the test prints. Very fortunately and as I had suspected, the image quality was not up to my preferred standard. But non-photographers are not as picky as I am, so I asked him to give me his mailing address so I could send him the small test proofs (at no charge) so he could judge for himself if he wanted me to proceed with making the final large prints.
When he responded that his mover would come by and examine the test prints to determine if they were good enough, then I really started to smell a rat. Who sends a “mover” to do that?! So I googled his name and email address again just now and thankfully came up with posts on stopartscams.blogspot.ca.
I was just about to pull the plug on any transaction with him anyway because all the annoying emailing back and forth and his general evasiveness were wearing me down and taking too much of my time to make it worth the income from the sale. But it never occurred to me that he was planning to scam me out of money until I read the posts on this site. So thank you thank you thank you.
Had he selected different images that would have printed well at the size he wanted, I would have made the prints and proceeded with “the sale”, though I would have insisted on waiting for the check to clear before handing over the prints to his “movers.”
Yup, paypal is the way to go!
The older posts on stopartscams.blogspot.ca go way back. I stopped reading after I got to Oct, 2011. But still worth going through a lot of the older posts for hints and interesting nuggets of information. Often the thing about the scammer sending their movers or agents to get the item directly from you comes up much sooner that it did with me. Generally the scammer has some story that they are moving and want your work to make their new place look great. They often claim they overpaid you by mistake or they sent you a check to cover both the cost of your images and their movers’ fees. If the latter, they ask you to send the refund to their movers via Western Union or similar that is not traceable. They generally send the payment check to you via Fedex or similar because if they sent it via USPS that would automatically be a crime (mail fraud) whereas the same does not apply to sending via Fedex. Much more useful stuff like this on the link above if you dig around.
One interesting and subtle clue to these scams is that when the scammer signs their (made up) name at the end of an email to you, there is very often a period right after their name. This may be related to something about the batch way they target people, according to the link above. But no one real ever puts a period after their name like that.
Also it might be helpful to check the IP address of where they sent the email from compared to where they say they are located (though there are ways for them to disguise that). I didn’t know you could even do that til I read the link above but by then I had already deleted all of Daniel’s irritating emails.
I want to spread the word to help reduce the chances these scummy scammers get away with it. Also check Kathleen McMahon’s post on “Known Scammer Names used in Art-Related Email Scams.”
Roberta Olenick. (See, doesn’t that look strange with a period after my name?)