Every now and then, if you are a painter with any kind of visibility in the world, you receive inquiries from people interested in one of your pieces. And it is a nice thing to open an email from a prospect asking about the availability of a piece.
But not all inquiring emails come from genuine clients. Some are meant to bait you and hook you into believing that you are going to make a big sale, and will turn out to be a scam.
So how do you recognize, quickly, a scam email versus a true client contacting you?
After a few I got to recognize a pattern and a tone they all have in common. So much so that I am now usually able to recognize them at first glance, though the latest one took me two emails exchanges before I got my alarm bells on.
The pattern: someone emails you out of the blue, telling you they really like your work or this particular piece of your work and would like to know more about prices and availability (even though it is all clearly posted on your website). They also have a particular reason to contact you: their wife birthday, a special event, or they noticed that your website was often visited by a loved one and they want to surprise her….
You answer, saying yes, the piece is available, price is that much; do they need it shipped, where do they want it to go?
The second email will tell you that they are traveling or on the move and want the piece to be either part of a moving load or picked up by a transporter and that you need to send the price and name you want to be on the check they will send you by personal courrier.
At that point you should actually understand that you are being scammed. There will be no purchase and if you were going further they would tell you they are sending you a check. It will be for more than the sale price; you deposit the check, keep what you’re owed, and wire the rest to them. If it’s part of a work-at-home scheme, they may claim that you’ll be processing checks from their “clients.” You deposit the checks and then wire them the money minus your “pay.” Or they may send you a check for more than your pay “by mistake” and ask you to wire them the excess. In any case, the check will look real, there will be an urgency to send them the difference and the check will never clear, though the bank might advance you the money… until they call you to tell you it was a fake. Meanwhile you might have send the difference to the scammer from your hard earned personal money and you are responsible for any check you deposit on your account.
It can look convoluted and most likely to not work, unfortunately it is extremely frequent and many people fall for it.
Beware, when you receive inquiries that anything that feels “off” will probably turn out to be. Listen to the little tiny signals that your subconscious can pick up. Answer politely that your procedure is as explained on your website, or offer a Paypal invoice that can be paid from anywhere, with any major credit card. Let them tell you more. They usually try to explain too much and give many reasons to be in a hurry and not being able to do the transaction in an ordinary manner.
At that point cut off the conversation, and report them to the Federal Trade Commission complaint assistant https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov . They won’t take on your case specifically but they will file your complaint with thousand others to help establish patterns and work toward enforcing the laws and educate the public.
After that, keep the scam email in a specific file for all purposes and remember to keep your antennae up when you receive any email inquiring about a piece.
Being informed and alert permits to keep on doing what you love to do and not get wrapped into unpleasantness.
So your life can stay on track and peaceful.
To your success!