Painting for sale?


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, I received an email from Bill Brown:

“Am Bill i want to know if u carry Painting For Sale? if i have not mention the size can tell me one u have now ready to sell? Any model is good with me. What is the price of one so i can purchase? Best Regard, Bill.”

Bill seems like a nice guy, don’t you think? The kind of guy who has confidence in the quality of an artist’s work. It really appealed to me that he was willing to accept “any model.” The world needs decisive buyers like Bill Brown.

It looked to me like English was not Bill’s first language, which was fine. I wrote him back: “Please clarify what it is you want and how much you want to spend.” I needed to clear up the money thing right away — it sounded like money might be a language Bill understood.

Bill wrote back: “Would me buy $7000 model, but need to send $10,000 for shipping so u can return me $3000 cheque from u okay???”

“Why don’t I just tuck $3000 cash into the back of the painting?” I wrote. “Okay,” he wrote back. “Can u send painting BY AIR right away??? i NEED IT here now.” This guy was eager, a real art enthusiast. The parcel was to go to a post box in Shanghai. Odd, in a way, because people can buy all kinds of paintings just like mine in China for less than ten dollars or two for fifteen. I was getting suspicious. Was it possible that Bill Brown was an alias for some person with another name? Do you think his cheque for $10,000 that he promised to send might turn out to be bogus? Could it be that someone was trying to shanghai me? Pacing back and forth in anxiety, I walked into the end of a door.

When I regained consciousness, I saw clearly that my assistant had not yet wrapped the painting nor had she tucked in the cash. I was quite relieved and went to the mailbox to see if any of the grant money I’d forgotten to apply for had come in. It hadn’t. Then I went down to the end of the property and ate some more magic mushrooms. They’re in season right now.

Best regards,


PS: “We have confirmed losses in the United States of over $100 million in the last 15 months, but a lot of people are too embarrassed to report they’ve been had.” (James Caldwell, Secret Service Special Agent)

Esoterica: It’s called “The Nigerian Scam” because it started in Nigeria. We’ve put some directives and keys to look for when you see a potential scam in your inbox. You can find these at the top of this letter. These days one can come from anywhere and there are many variations. The Internet is perfect for it. Scammers think we deserve to be taken because we’re lazy and stupid. Artists are particularly vulnerable because our work is relatively expensive and we’re perceived as needing money. Artists may be more stupid than other people as well, but I don’t think so. He didn’t fool me.


Worldwide fraud
by Rita Dianni-Kaleel, Wales, UK


“Death & Transfiguration”
diptych oil and gold leaf
on canvas, 47 x 40 inches
by Rita Dianni-Kaleel

I have received many scams over the years. When I receive them, I copy the entire email and send it to the fraud alert.

(RG note) Thanks, Rita. When we opened the inbox on Friday there were more than three thousand letters referring to this scam. We particularly appreciated letters that gave links useful to artists. And while the fraud scheme seems to hit hard in certain areas, it is a worldwide problem.




There are 2 comments for Worldwide fraud by Rita Dianni-Kaleel

From: Marjory Sampson — Jan 24, 2009

Last year I had a similar thing happen to me on the Art Wanted site. I found out the person lived right here in the U.S. in New Jersey. I got suspicious after a number of Emails and put his name and the state he lives in on the internet and it said that he was a scammer.

From: Artist_of_Virtue — Feb 02, 2009

Many scammers such as this one are trying to retriever your personal information, to either enter the US or apply for a fake ID of some form to apply for loans etc. One should caution any scam messages sent to them. TRASH IT! FAST


FBI website
by Adria Arch, MA, USA


ink on paper, 96 x 102 inches
by Adria Arch

I had a similar situation happen to me about two years ago. I had recently uploaded work onto Flickr and soon after I received an email asking the prices of my work which the writer described in flattering, if poor, English. I was suspicious, but did send him prices. He wrote back saying he would be sending me a money order. When he didn’t tell me which piece he wanted, I became suspicious. Since I had given him my work address he soon sent me $3000 in money orders (with no promise that I would send him my work — which work?) that I was to cash at one of a list of banks. I called the FBI and reported this scam. They have a website where scammees can report their experience.


by Terrilee J Hobson, Brockville, ON, Canada


acrylic on canvas
by Terrilee J Hobson

I’ve received a number of emails similar to the one you reported. Most originate in Nigeria. One in particular wanted me to send him two pieces of work quickly as it was his daughter’s wedding in two months. He also wanted to purchase cameras, etc. After playing with this fool for a while, I sent all the correspondence to




Befriending a scammer
by Pam Craig, Memphis, TN, USA


“Red dawn”
original painting
by Pam Craig

The excitement of the sale sometimes overwhelms good judgment. Mr. Bill Brown to you became Roger Wright to me. Mr. Wright was so complimentary of my work in his email messages that it made me want to meet him. In my return mail I expressed such a wish and told him how important his thoughts on my work had become. I needed him to view all my present works to get his opinion and to allow him to personally select the pieces he wished to purchase. I told him I would gladly pay for his ticket to visit me and would even have him stay in my home while he was here. I told him I would make sure he had a safe journey because I would send over my “special chauffeur” to pick him up and deliver him safely, all he needed to do was give me his home address and telephone number so that I could confirm exactly where to meet him. I never heard from Mr. Wright again.

There are 2 comments for Befriending a scammer by Pam Craig

From: Mikki Root Dillon — Nov 18, 2008

Wonderful, Pam! I have taken the liberty of forwarding your reply game to all our Southeastern Pastel Society members! They really enjoyed Robert’s letter and I have received several accounts of near-misses and one about an artist who lost $2000 by not researching one of these scams. I loved your toying with one of these jerks! Mikki

From: Artist_of_Virtue — Feb 02, 2009

All! I can say to Pam is Way To Go! LOL!


Trust your instincts
by Lucy Truslow, Keene, NH, USA

I love getting your letters, and it was great to start my morning with laughter from today’s “Painting for Sale?” although it really isn’t a laughing matter for those who have fallen prey to this type of scam. I get hundreds of these during the work week (I teach art in an elementary school) and can see how someone might get sucked in. The clues become obvious over time, including poor spelling and English, as well as the fact that I don’t use many of the accounts that they refer to. Hopefully more people will trust their instincts, rather than their desire for a monetary windfall, so that they won’t be fooled.


Scam variations
by Carmen Beecher, Satellite Beach, FL, USA


“Morning Becomes Alexsa”
original painting
by Carmen Beecher

How funny that your email today was about that scam, because the previous email I opened this morning was the same scam, different version from a man purportedly wanting to rent an apartment that we advertised on Craigslist. Of course, he would send a check for $6950, we would deduct the move-in deposit, and send the rest to his “Home Decorator.” I reported it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.






Pirates of the Caribbean
by Alcina Nolley, St Lucia, West Indies


“Caribbean Nativity”
original digital print
by Alcina Nolley

I was familiar with the “Nigerian Scam” so when I received an email from a woman requesting that I contact her shipping agent and send the print immediately, I was suspicious. She wanted to purchase my “Caribbean Nativity” print and have it arrive at her new home in time for Christmas. She was presently living in England. Her new home was in Africa, and “Could you ship it right away please. I guarantee my payment.” I had outlined the terms in my first response to her and emphasized that she send her payment ‘overnight’ in order to have it arrive for the holiday. The next email was from her shipping agent, asking for an address where he could pick up the print. That capped my suspicions, since I live far away from a casual visit by anyone. I never received a check.


The vulnerable among us
by Bill Skrips, Blairstown, NJ, USA

The unfortunate part of this is that scammers need to get better and slicker at their craft — but they will! This is survival we’re talking about here, not some sort of game. Artists may be good targets, but how about our elder parents? Or recent immigrants? Not born yesterday? Well, neither were these scammers, they will get better and better. The amount of email scams I throw out daily is shocking, but I’m so glad that I can somewhat easily smell a rat. But they are still outsmarting the more vulnerable amongst us.


‘Tragic accident’ intervenes
by Ross Munro


“Mount Slesse-Chilliwack River”
acrylic painting
by Ross Munro

My experience was rather more sophisticated than yours. It created a plausible persona who would receive the painting as a gift (along with a photo of the person). They were very excited to be gifting the exact painting they had ordered, not just anything in their price range. When I was ready to ship I notified them I had cashed the postal money order. They emailed back saying that the intended owner had been tragically injured in a traffic accident and would I return the money?

I replied (fully alerted by now) that I was very sorry to hear that and I would as soon as it was fully cleared in the system. Sure enough the money order came back in a week – it was counterfeit. Our bank had assured us it was as good as cash. I spotted several warning signs; illiteracy, which I also attributed to her ethnic background, the oddity of an Australian email address wanting to ship a painting to Greece, and a postal order in US dollars drawn in Maine! The timing of the “tragic accident” was a little far-fetched as well.


A waste of good talent
by Richard F Barber, Watford, Hertfordshire, UK


“You stole my heart”
original oil painting
by Richard F Barber

These scams have made selling art, for Artists like me living in China, very difficult if not impossible due to widespread mistrust. In five years I have not sold one painting outside of China and I don’t think that it is the money factor as much as it is the mistrust in the country I live in. My work ranges from $300 to $10,000 depending on the size. My biggest pieces are 2 meters x 1.4 meters. My work covers many subjects. This has not stopped me from believing in my art and seeking more challenges. I still think that it’s important for me to meet these challenges and to be true to myself. It’s just a pity that we are plagued with morons like this in society, what with hackers and scammers, you would think they would have better things to do with their creative skills than to cause disruption in the commerce of the world. After all, only the poor really suffer by their actions. This contributes to the weakening world economy, proven by job losses worldwide. It’s just a waste of good talent that could be used to better the world we live in.


Scam shop in Nigeria
by Pat Kagan, Rockville, MD, USA


“Earthlink 3”
watercolour, 30 x 22 inches
by Pat Kagan

Recently there was a television documentary about such scams. They showed a small room in a Nigerian town. It seemed like a rural Internet cafe such as they have in cities and towns in western countries. The people were all doing the same thing, sending concocted stories with disguised requests for money to Americans. If someone actually received money from some poor soul, that name and email address would be passed on to others, so that they could try their own particular scam on this gullible target. It is a huge business among a few bad eggs, but the amount this “business” receives runs into the millions of dollars each year.

There are 2 comments for Scam shop in Nigeria by Pat Kagan

From: Artist_of_Virtue — Feb 02, 2009

Now this explains why the rest of the world refuses to do serious business with the Nigerians countries or Africa period, shame on them. I hope hell caught up with their bad behaviors.

From: Artist_of_Virtue — Feb 02, 2009

On a note I received 2 emails saying, 1. This person will be sending me over $100,000 through Western Union. It had information to check to see if the money was there, come to think of it, I checked and to said it had been picked up. The second time, I received an email, saying they will send me $7,000 every hour, I checked the information with Western Union to see if it was there, it was ready to be picked up, but it ended with me right there, because I know with Western Union they need your information in order to received this money, so my first thought was giving up my information could get me killed and let alone identity stolen, life turned upside down for ages etc…

Perhaps! These scam shops may have some kind of fake website in these emails that don’t actually take you to the real Western Union website, which in the end gets all you personal information, then again they may have some kind actual scam setup with con artists who are working for Western Unions. You’ll never know. My best advice is TRASH IT! FAST

Many scammers such as these are trying to retriever your personal information, to either enter the US and/or apply for ID of some form to apply for loans etc. one should caution any scam messages sent to them. TRASH IT! FAST


Small world
by Anne-Elisabeth Nitteberg, Lillesand, Norway

Thanks for the valuable scam investigation. I really learn a lot from your letters and have met so many wonderful artists from all over the world that I wouldn’t know of otherwise. Have you ever considered how your letters and clickbacks save energy? We can be updated, learn, get inspired and explore the artist’s own world without using cars or airplanes, just the energy our laptops use.

I have recently moved to the Razes area in France. The historical area of the Cathares, and my longing for travelling are minimized for a period. I live in the middle of this inspirational landscape which change in colours all the time and beautiful skies from day to day. In a short trip up on a hilltop I have the views over the Pyrenees on one side, and when I turn around I have the views over the Montagne Noir and a lot of Circular towns.




Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Painting for sale?



From: Rick Rotante — Nov 13, 2008

I’m sorry, but if this idiot takes you in, you deserve to lose the money and the painting. P.T. Barnum once said, ” There is a sucker born every day!” Or was that W.C. Fields. I get those initials confused..:)

I get two to three of these a month. I’ve tried reporting them to the Fed’s but they tell me they are aware of the scam and to ignore them.

I probably live a “charmed life” because I’ve accepted checks from buyer and…so far… not one has ever bounced. Of course, I cash the check BEFORE I ship the painting. I also accept checks at art shows and I must say I’m lucky to get a “real” buyer with money.

We have to be diligent and not be too eager to sell. If the proposition is too good to be true, you may end up with new wallpaper and lose your work.

From: D Adair — Nov 13, 2008
From: Ned M Stacey Sr — Nov 13, 2008

Be especially careful because you have little if any way of getting back your money. Plus remember if you do deposit a fake check and start writing checks to pay bills, make purchases, once the bank finds out the check is fake they are going to charge your account the amount of the check and then your checks will start bouncing, and you will be charged fees, and on and on. It can be a financial disaster for you. No matter how official a check looks from these guys, every time it is going to be fake.

From: Russ Hogger — Nov 13, 2008

I read an article in a business magazine on corporate and personal investments. It said, if the deal sounds like it is too good to be true, in all probability it is too good to be true.

From: Cheryl Webster — Nov 14, 2008

I get one of these letters, not necessarily about art, at least once a week! The first thing I usually notice, after an enormous amount of money is mentioned, is that even when the English is pretty good, the grammar breaks down somewhere along the line. Somehow these letters never look like a bonafide business letter. Once, my husband and I decided to follow one up just to see how these people go about baiting the hook, but gave it up when they started wanting information from us. But really these kind of scams have been well advertised and it’s amazing that people still get caught. There was one the other day forwarded from our Art Society asking for donations of paintings. It seemed a good cause but I was leary and simply held it for a few days to see what would happen. The Society investigated and warned all their members thankfully.

From: Don Bryant — Nov 14, 2008

And it’s not only money they are after. Your response to a suspect e-mail gives them a vaild email address (yours) which they can sell to bulk advertisers. When the fake “you have won $1 million” email asked you to supply full information, address, telephone, etc. this is even more valuable to them. Nothing is Free. Bill Gates in not going to donate money to some noble charity every time you pass on some silly message. The rule of Don’t talk to strangers should be extended to don’t communicate to them either. I know. My ID has been compromised and I have lost money out of my bank account for my carelessness …and stupidity. Be like Robert. Don’t be like me.

From: Consuelo — Nov 14, 2008

What makes me mad is that these scammers are showing as much creativity as we artists, maybe more.

From: Joe Dolice — Nov 14, 2008

Thanks very much for bringing this to the attention of your huge following of artists, Robert. I have personally received half a dozen calls or emails from artists of my acquaintance inquiring about this — quite a few of them excited about potential sales, until I told them it was a scam.

From: Susan Avishai — Nov 14, 2008

Despite the serious issue you bring up, this was your funniest letter since I began to subscribe. “Why don’t I tuck $3000 into the back of the painting?” indeed.

From: Margie — Nov 14, 2008

Since my mother passed away I have and am still receiving scams in the name of my bank, Exxon, you name it, that I stand to receive millions. Also a sob letter from a woman who had many serious illnesses and wanted to give her money to someone deserving. HaHa.

These letters come in all styles and are pretty funny. At least, they give me a good laugh for the day.

And remember, only the greedy get sucked into them, the letters are too good to be true!

From: Fulton — Nov 14, 2008

There is a little village in China where they turn out these paintings (the ones mentioned for small amounts of cash), unfortunately people from the States and most likely Canada have been buying them over the Internet. They are taking images off the web of works like Genn’s and selling them. China’s copyright laws are more or less non-existent and they produce too many of them for the red tape to ever get cleaned up in time. Off topic, but more or less true.

From: Tinker Bachant — Nov 14, 2008

The artists in our group, Art Helping Animal Artists, which has artists in several states from coast to coast in the USA, and in Canada, Australia, and UK , have gotten so many of these it’s ridiculous. We have gotten to sharing with each other on our forum and to have to report everyone of these outrageous scams would take up way too much precious painting time!

From: Caren — Nov 14, 2008

I often get emails from deposed dictators wanting to send me money directly to my account. Of course I always comply as I really feel sorry for these folks as I know they really do need a safe haven for their money. I even went so far as to greet one at the airport after I sent him an airline ticket to the U.S., I had my guest bedroom all ready for him but he didn’t show up.

Now please excuse me as I get back to painting, so I can sell more art, make more money to buy airline tickets to send to these generous folks in obscure countries. Everyone should get a chance to come to America.

From: C. Lee — Nov 14, 2008
From: Gail Harper, NY — Nov 14, 2008

…Also is there a way to find out when European galleries offer an oportunity to exhibit??? as in …you have been selected etc.?

Love to know how to discern ….of course there is a fee.

CHEERS, Gail Harper

From: Deborah Tidwell Holtzscheiter — Nov 14, 2008

The old adage still applies “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I received an email this year from someone who wanted to buy several of my paintings. And then a check with an extra amount that I would send back to them. My last contact with them was that I was concerned because I know that there are scams. I didn’t hear back from them! I think it would always be prudent to make sure the check cleared your bank (not just deposited) before sending anything. AND I think it’s always questionable when someone wants you to return a portion.

From: Deborah Leigh — Nov 14, 2008

Hello, I got an e-mail from a Despina Tunberg, who says she is a art curator from Santa Barbara Calif. saying that she was interested in my work, and would I be interested in sending images of my work. They would be juried, and then if one or more was accepted, I could have up to 5 images published in an art book, at the cost of $600.00 per page, she said she saw my work from the Painter’s Keys, I don’t have $600.00 anyways. But would like to know if anyone else was contacted, and what do you think, is there something rotten in Denmark, or not. hmmmm Thanks D.

From: Sandy Robinson — Nov 14, 2008

I had to chuckle at the ‘scam’ coverage. No doubt everyone has had hundreds of these requests. Last week we had a request to rent our B&B rooms for 6 people for two weeks and like you, they were sending a cheque for a few thousand over the cost and would we kindly mail him a money order for the change! We suggested they go to a local hotel!!

Love your letters and thought that I should really be responding to an art related item!! Next time…..Sandy

From: Susan Warner — Nov 14, 2008

I understand that this is a serious issue, but you certainly gave me a great laugh with your description! And sadly enough…..some of our own citizens write in the same manner as “Bill”. YIKES!

From: Jeanne Rhea — Nov 14, 2008

For Deborah Leigh—I have received several of those types of ‘opportunities.’ I have never responded as I don’t see the point of spending that kind of money to be in a book. If I wanted to spend that much, I bet that American Style or some other art magazine would be a better investment. Reminds me of all the poetry contests where people pay to be published and get special rates if they agree to purchase x number of books.

From: Victoria Armstrong — Nov 14, 2008
From: Darrell Baschak — Nov 14, 2008

Robert, I was just recently subjected to a very similar scam as yours. My client was from Alabama whose husband was in London, UK, but moving to Johannesburg, SA, where they were going to be moving into a new home. Their mover was supposedly from London who would be looking after shipping their household goods. The check was a good forgery but did not fool the teller at the bank, where I took the cheque to be “checked out”. I had a bit of fun emailing the culprits back and suggesting that the RCMP would like to talk to them! The RCMP have little to no recourse in apprehending these types, who probably make quite a bit of dough at the end of the day.

From: Joanne — Nov 14, 2008
From: Garth Palanuk — Nov 14, 2008

That’s an interesting story. I’ve had the same experience a number of times. However, the last one shook me up a little. This time the person gave me a credit card number. I have a contract with which I can accept credit cards. When I checked on the credit card number I was told it was a valid card. I was about to proceed with the sale when I thought of asking for the name on the card. The company I deal with would not give me the name but I was able to convince them to give me a “yes” or “no” if I gave them the name. It was “no”. So this ‘crook’ almost had me or someone because if he/she had been smart enough to note the name on the stolen card, a transaction could have been made. That means either I or the poor slob who owns the card could have been dinged. The other part that was scary was when I told the company about the attempted scam, they were not interested. I then called the appropriate credit card company and they too were very blasé about the whole transaction. So this business that the credit cards companies are interested in stopping fraud is simply not true. As long as they don’t lose, they could care less.

From: Gilda Pontbriand — Nov 14, 2008
From: Catherine Gutsche — Nov 14, 2008

OK so here’s my proposal…. everyone who gets this email and yes I get them regularly, some even name real work on my website. I say we do the deal with the cash in the back of the painting…. a nice charcoal rubbing of some coins, my great niece’s sketch of some Euros, a one sided photocopy of a dollar bill….. you get the idea but the painting will be real…. it will be a 6″x6″ painting of a lollipop…. you know a SUCKER.

So far whenever I have Google-mapped the addresses in these emails they have never come up with a location.

Oh yes and when the check arrives…. I think I’ll just drop it off at the local police station. I’m sure they have a nice photo album to keep it in.

From: Melinda Hjelholt — Nov 14, 2008
From: Bruce Outridge — Nov 14, 2008

I had the exact same thing happen to me from someone in Australia who wanted to purchase hats and t-shirts associated with a comic book I have published this year. The order was very large and would have been great for my ego and pocketbook. That was until he offered to not only pick up the product as shipping was above $500, but he would pay me extra for my trouble. I didn’t realize I was having trouble selling from my own business, but I guess it is so. I stopped all correspondence and have not heard back since. I’m glad you did not get scammed. He had the same bad spelling and the funny thing was I “googled” his name and the name was a respected university professor in Australia. I didn’t think a university professor would have problems spelling his own name in his email address.

From: Catherine Stock — Nov 14, 2008

Yup, I had a couple of those scam emails. I was wise to them, but an incredible number of people fall for them. My brother was all set to take off to Lagos to meet a beautiful woman who just happened to be president of both an oil company and a gold mine…and another friend agreed to rent his old French farmhouse to a Nigerian family for 2,000 pounds sterling a week in the middle of winter…

I am on a painting holiday in Villefranche-sur-Mer. I happen to own the Citadel here, if anyone wants to make me an offer…

From: Sharon Will — Nov 14, 2008
From: Petra Voegtle — Nov 14, 2008

I feel rather embarrassed that although this scam is known for years now there are still people who step into this trap. I am getting regularly mails suggesting this kind of stuff in all varieties.

Whenever someone is suggesting sending payment without further question regarding my work these mails go into the bin immediately. Whenever someone suggests sending checks although I have clearly stated on my website how I am going to accept payments the email goes into the bin.

From: Larry Moore — Nov 14, 2008

You’ll probably get a letter from every artist on this one. I posted these tips on my blog about a similar letter… man, if I had a dollar for every time I won the European lottery.

Here are some tips on what to look for in an art scam letter:

1) If they don’t know your name.

2) If they are not so good with the making of english?

2) No checks, money orders or 3rd party checks, especially if anyone is overseas.

3) Credit cards only and whatever the transaction give it 10 days or more to clear.

5) Google the address and call the number that’s associated with the googled info.

6) If they want to send a check for way more than the amount and want you to send the balance back with the art, it’s fo sho a scam.

7) Anytime they put their name in all caps… this must be something they teach in scam school.

8) If they use the word trust or invoke the name of Christ. One hopes that there is a special place in hell for anyone who attempts to gain your trust by saying “one in Christ”

9) and finally only scammers end with “best of regards”

Much of what is apparent in these scammails is something simple common sense will tell you, just turn off the “ohboyasale” feature in your brain.



From: Casey Craig — Nov 14, 2008

I had a similar experience when I was trying to sell some wheels on CraigsList. I received an email from a Hilmo Agic that said he would send me a certified check and overnight it to me. I received an overnight check from a New York address for $3250 (much more than I was asking for the wheels) on a check from a Virginia publishing company. I called the publishing company and they said that was a closed account and they’d had a lot of calls. I didn’t even know it was from Hilmo until he sent an email saying hurry up and wire back the extra money so he could send his shipper down to pick up the wheels. The check looked legitimate so I could see where some might go ahead and cash it and wire back the difference. I realized it was a scam and told Hilmo the check was no good and he was a fraud, etc thinking that would end it. However, he sent ANOTHER check, this time from a business company in North Dakota. Urgent emails followed from him about when I would wire the money so his shipper could pick up the wheels. I told him to send his shipper down, I’d pay him in cash and the local law enforcement community would be here to talk to him about where he got hold of so many fraudulent checks. The emails stopped.

The next time I got a suspicious offer concerning a certified check, I told him cash or postal money order only. He went away immediately. In the U.S. the postal money order is a great option for transactions. They are available at any post office and the fee is quite low.

From: Frances Stilwell — Nov 14, 2008

The same approach came to me about my car advertised in a local Oregon paper, from someone with middle-eastern accent (“as near as I could tell”) in New York who had a bank in Quebec! I sold the car to someone here but eventually a check arrived clumsily addressed for three times the selling price which I took into Bank of America as directed, but to alert them of the activity. The bank recognized right off that it was bogus. The “friend” who was going to come pick up the car and the difference in the amount never arrived. The whole thing was wildly crazy and although I can be gullible I never bit.

From: Carolynn Doan — Nov 14, 2008

I receive at least one of these inquiries per month. The first time that it happened I was very excited and thrilled that the Internet was working for me. My husband was not so thrilled. He told me to respond saying that all payments from abroad go through either my accountant or lawyer and that was the last I heard of that. So….if I suspect foul play that is exactly what I say. Wastes less time I figure.

Two days ago I had a different kind of inquiry. I actually responded to it with titles and pricing. I did my dudilligence (sp). The man that wrote had spellled colour with the ‘our’ so I figured that he was likely not an American. ” Maybe he was for real’, I thought. I looked his up his name ‘Robert Menard’ on Canada 411 and sure enough there are several Robert Menards strung out across the country. That is when I decided to reply. Within the hour an answer came saying ‘Thank you for the information’ and that was it. I ‘googled’ his name only to find that there is an up and coming artist in France by that name. When I found a site that supposedly carried his work, I clicked on his images, the response was ‘image not available’.

My conspiracy-theory self believes that I have been scammed. I wonder if this person is going to print off my images and needed to know approx. how much I charge for a piece so that they won’t be found out. However, it could be the artist in France wants to know what Canadians, with my level of painting skill, gets for a picture. I will likely never know.

The part that ticks me off with all of this is that it took a lot of painting time away from my day, researching, responding and pondering. What a waste.

From: Gavin Calf — Nov 15, 2008

Hi Deborah Lee. Yes, I also got that e mail and I said yes. They selected one work but when I looked at the web site it said far too little: other “Masters”, distribution, etc and the design didn’t quite blow my skirts up either. Robert gave some good advice: land phone numbers, full contact addresses, faxes and names must be on the e mail, and no attachments, only a web site to look at with full information supplied.

From: Leni Friedland — Nov 15, 2008

I am not sure my scam was Nigerian..kept getting emails about my work….wanting to buy two or three….sending courier.

Next thing I know…a bank check in the amount of $7,000 arrives in my mail. The courier was stuck somewhere….could I send $3,000 to him and rest would be for my paintings. I took the bank check to my bank…being born in Brooklyn, N.Y., USA, I am naturally a skeptic and very street wise. The bank the check was drawn on was in Florida, USA….guess what?? My bank called the Florida bank and found out it was one of many bank checks that were stolen from this bank. Information was given to the FBI, but because it was such a “small amount of money,” they were not interested in chasing the scammer down. The saying used to be “Buyer Beware!” Now for artists the saying needs to be changed to “Seller Beware!”

From: Anthe — Nov 15, 2008

These scammers have taken a lot of artists, I think because we tend to be more trusting individuals as a whole. I however have had 20 years of retail training and management prior to becoming a professional artist. I saw many swindlers, thieves, and no goods along with their antics. I guess the old adage if it sounds like a duck, looks like a duck, smells like a duck, then it must be a duck holds true. Too good to be true usually is. I really wanted to prosecute the guy but the police just laughed and said that they had enough people calling daily to paper a bathroom. Nothing can be done because there is no real way to chase them or catch them. They also didn’t feel it was a good idea for these people to find out where I was working and living.

From: Lynda JaNice — Nov 15, 2008

I was not surprised about the art scam. I had recently inquired about a pet for adoption, or sale. I received a reply… ‘the dog is free but the flight charges and other charges are $7,000. I am in can coon and cannot keep my pet, please give him a home’ and I will send you back any $ remaining… Another one was here in the states and was the same context except the cost was $400. The first give-away to the scam was the language and spelling. So, they are targeting pet lovers as well as broke artists :) Deleted and hope not to get another, but I also found out that they use very common American names like, John Doe, Bill Smith, etc, so I do not even open them now unless I know the name. It is sad to loose so much trust in man-kind like this, best to be safe.

From: Mary Englert — Nov 15, 2008

This couldn’t have come at a better time. Following the stress of the election (down here) left room for a bit of humor and that was quite a bit.! I’m still chuckling as I think I’ve had dealings with him or his brother.

From: Ross — Nov 15, 2008

I appreciated your sense of humour about this pathetic scam! I had a close call a few years ago. It was rather more sophisticated than yours. It created a plausible persona who would receive the painting as a gift (along with a photo of the person). They were very excited to be gifting the exact painting they had ordered, not just anything in their price range. When I was ready to ship I notified them I had cashed the postal money order. They emailed back saying that the intended owner had been tragically injured in a traffic accident and would I return the money? I replied (fully alerted by now) that I was very sorry to hear that and I would as soon as it was fully cleared the system. Sure enough the money order came back in a week – it was counterfeit. The bank which cashed the money order had assured us it was as good as cash.

The warning signs I spotted were numerous; illiteracy, which I also attributed to her ethnic background, the oddity of an Australian email address wanting to ship a painting to Greece, and a postal order in US dollars drawn in Maine! The timing of the “tragic accident” was a little far-fetched as well.

From: Jon Conkey — Nov 15, 2008

Surely, anyone falling prey to that scam was born yesterday. However, here in the US, especially with the “global save the earth types” you could make a hefty profit selling those “shrooms”, along with any other “herb” that alters their consciousness from the reality they face.

From: Jacquie Green — Nov 15, 2008

This scam happened to me out of Florida a few years ago. The people sent US Postal money orders, which seemed so much more solid than a personal cheque. I asked my bank to examine them carefully because I didn’t know if they were legit. The money orders are tricky because they can take up to a month to clear. I stalled the buyer – who seemed much more legit than yours, and sent me so many biographical details that were so entertaining I got hooked on the narrative, never mind the sale – so that when the money orders came back fraudulent, I still had the paintings and the bank could take back the money. The truly ironic thing was that my bank threatened to prosecute me for fraud for depositing the fake money orders. They backed off – but it was nervous-making at the time.

I had contacted the Mounties as soon as my suspicions rose and they told me to just cut off all communications with the people as they were most assuredly crooks, but the stories they were sending me were fascinating so I went along for a while just for the theater of it all. To be noted, though, not all of these people are as obvious as your Bill. Some of them write perfect English and have very convincing and enticing proposals.

I am very leery of any contacts through my website since this happened, and I did tell CARFAC about it – they said they would alert their membership.

From: Marilyn Brown — Nov 15, 2008

I had this happen to me a couple of years ago when someone wrote they wanted three of my paintings they saw on my website and would pay by Cashier’s Check. Long story about moving to England, wanting shipper to pick up paintings and give me a check over amount I was charging and for me to give him the balance back, etc. Check came and looked authentic but I check with issuing bank and found out it was a good looking counterfeit.

Reported incident to FBI and local authorities but never a followup, too difficult to trace.

From: Paul M. — Nov 15, 2008

While a part time artist, I work full time in the computer field, and I have had some good friends fall into this. Someone offers to buy something, sends a check for too much (with some random reason- often it is a paycheck they can’t cash quickly enough), and asks for money in return. .

Unfortunately, Bill most likely doesn’t care much about getting your painting. (Hard to believe, I know… but true.) What he wants is the $3,000 in real money in exchange for the $10,000 in fake money. Not a bad living if you can keep the authorities off your back.

From: Robert Leedy — Nov 15, 2008
From: Larry Kirk — Nov 15, 2008

The way that things are shaping up in just about any field of enterprise, an example that I have been taught, is a pretty good one. And one that I teach to anyone that I have ever taught in any line of work. Always get at least 50% deposit up front.

Either cash or Certified Bank Draft, validated & in your account. This method certainly separates the good from the bad. Global Economic situations the way that they are, dictate these types of procedures.

From: Paul deMarrais — Nov 15, 2008

Even I get these pijun English queries from enthusiastic collectors who want to buy a train load of my paintings and are very willing to trade me a worthless check for them. It is sad that some of these scams are successful and artists are duped with little recourse to regain their works. There are no cops on the Internet. Dishonesty, deceit, manipulation are the norm and not the exception. It is a depressing example of unrestrained human nature in action.

From: Paula Smith — Nov 15, 2008
From: Nanci Erskine — Nov 15, 2008

Gee, Bill hasn’t gotten in touch with me yet!

Although I haven’t received one of these “fishing” emails for quite a while, or else they hit my junk box, they have made me very cautious of doing art business via e-mails. Recently though, after hearing from several interior designers / art consultants who had seen my work in a sourcebook widely distributed in the states, I have experienced my first sale through totally virtual channels. It was a bit weird, particularly since I never even spoke to the designer, after she sent me an email saying they wanted to buy two of the paintings from the images I had emailed to her. I did, however, do my Google research and found the firm, and her bio, and called and left her a phone message. We communicated through e-mail exclusively! Then a check arrived from the design firm and I shipped out the work to an unknown client. Bizzarro world – yeah a bit – but since the check was good, I was happy to comply! Another thing that this brings up is having an accurate, calibrated monitor, so that when you do send out images in an email, you can be pretty certain folks are seeing the same work you are! It’s very troubling to read that so many people have been taken in by scam artists though.

From: John Tooma — Nov 15, 2008

Just as I read your article on Bill Brown, I just cracked up laughing; you have a wonderful sense of humour, There are a lot of these bogus people or situations around. The Gallery I deal with here in NSW Australia, experienced very similar thing and they almost fell for it.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Nov 15, 2008

I once got a very convincing offer in the email to buy 2 of my paintings. The email originated in Canada and spelling was correct so I didn’t see through it right away, but the way they listed the titles and sizes of the paintings was reminiscent of a “template” email.

I forwarded the inquiry to my dealer and got a response that was apparently supposed to be funny “It’s a scam for sure, it’s difficult enough to sell one of your paintings, let alone two”.

From: Margaret Bremner — Nov 16, 2008

Oh my oh my! I laughed out loud. It all sounded so familiar! Thanks for a great morning chuckle, and a warning for those unaware.

From: Mona Youssef — Nov 17, 2008
From: Theresa Bayer — Nov 18, 2008

I’ve had a few of those guys contact me. So now I repond to inquiries, “Payment for exact amount of purchase only.” If they write back wanting to pay more, then I know they’re attempting a scam and I don’t take the transaction any further.

From: Jack Richardson — Nov 18, 2008

Regarding the scams, I either just delete with no contemplation or tell them to send lots of cash, US dollars in cash. Never a response.

From: Jennifer Bellinger — Nov 18, 2008

I must be as old as the hills as I have known about these scams since before computers. The letters came in the mail and were typed on manual typewriters (for you youngsters, they were sort of like a keyboard). It wasn’t the painting scam thing, but to share millions, you only had to give them your bank account number! I have heard many of these people sending scam emails drive Mercedes…must be some artists or others willing to fall prey.

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 18, 2008

Judging from all the above replies, I wonder that this is a $100 million dollar a year scam. It seems everyone knows about them.

I got one last week offering, I told them I had just won the lottery here and was canceling my internet service and leaving on an extended vacation to parts unkown. i left no forwarding address. They never responded.

From: Joyce Goden — Nov 18, 2008

Fortunately I have yet to be bit by one of these scams. But, will share this as a heads ups for all the artists here.

Keep very good gallery records, and make sure you ask their lost policy before leaving any work with them…

I was in a gallery that was selling my work, (maybe 2 or 3 a month, out of a portfolio rack, they did the framing).

Well they lost three paintings. They said they never had them. I could tell by the phony grins that they were up to something. Needless to say I pulled my work and learned my lesson.

Also a friend of mine opened a gallery & handmade gift shop, she told me right off the bat that if anything gets lost, burned, or taken, its my loss. I let her have one painting for the sake of our friendship.

Are artists the only group that give free stock? Wonder how it would be for artists if every dealer had to buy the art outright before trying to make money off it.


From: Chris Everest — Nov 18, 2008

I regularly get 2 or 3 of these scams (I assume) every day both on my own email and my work email. Usually they involve some terrible tragedy that has befallen somebody (often a young girl) whose parent has died but has left them a fortune that they cannot access. They only need a UK bank account and an address. I have been offered almost every amount known to man in whatever currency I desire and often I am offered even more. Of course the letters are often written in halting English but are intended to invoke my christian feelings of brotherhood and justice and fair play. Despite my untold wealth I still end up coming in to work the next day.

From: J.R. Baldini — Nov 18, 2008

Yes, these scams have been around the internet for years. I just delete them.

While it may be in your nature to trust that they may be real and you reply, or you feel the need for some entertainment by way of correspondence, please know that any time you hit ‘reply’ on one of these emails, you validate your email address and you will be GUARANTEED to get a nice variety of spam by being added to many more lists.

From: Beaman Cole — Nov 18, 2008

I’ve written this in years past but… The quickest fix for any email requesting work and wanting to know where they may send a check, is this:

Dear ?,

Thank you for your interest in my work. The paintings in question is priced at $— and shipping will be an additional $—.

Due to the amount of fraud in the art business, the only form of payment I accept is Western Union. Please send the exact amount $— to me via Western Union and email me or call me when you have. Once I go to my local Western Union office and have the cash in hand, I will promptly put the art in a box and ship it to you. Good day.

Trust me… you will never hear from them again on the issue if they are frauds. It works every time.

From: D Marshall — Nov 19, 2008

I receive many such e-mails and I delete them all. I really cannot believe that these scam artists think that anyone would take the bait after reading through the poor spelling & grammar. I also receive & delete all sorts of e-mails for employment opportunities . I like Beaman Cole’s suggestion & Larry Moore had some good pointers. Reading JR Baldini’s reply I can see why I should just delete these types of e-mail. Sometimes though I cannot resist reading them just to see what the scammers are up to. Unfortunately I think that the scammers are going to get smart about incorrect spelling and grammar. Recently I have received e-mails about PayPal transactions that I never entered into. They do not have my name on them so either PayPal is making a mistake or someone is ending an e-mail that looks like PayPal sent it so that when I click onto it they can gain access to my computer. There are all sorts of way to obtain ones personal info w/o you being aware of it. It is a shame that honest businesses such as PayPal might be used like this. I also keep finding e-mails from a bank in my in box that I never do business with requesting that click on and update my information. These type of e-mails look very official.I know that Amazon is interested when you receive what looks to be a legitimate e-mail asking about your account particulars and would like it sent to them. I guess the rule for internet sales would be to measure twice & saw once.

From: Marian Dunn — Nov 22, 2008

I got one from ‘Nicole’ who wanted a small painting she saw on my web site –I told her it would be $300, matted plus $20 for shipping. I received a check for $3,000 (from Santa Monica) & when I let her know that was too much & I would need a money order, their next try was a cashier’s check for another $3,000 (sent from London this time). Obviously they wanted me to deposit the check & when it was returned to them for insufficient funds they would get my bank number. Amazing how many of us are so gullible when we hear someone likes our work.

From: Mona Youssef — Nov 22, 2008

A few years ago, I was all excited when received similar message from an agent who informed me that he lived in USA and will pay the full amount in advance, with credit card, before shipping. I said GREAT what do I lose!. I told him, he would be responsible for the shipping costs, amazingly, he had no problem with that!! I packaged all the requested paintings as if they were ready to be shipped, went to FedEx to know the cost, stood in the line, gladly only, one person was in front of me. My turn came and once I opened my mouth informing the clerk where it was going, happily that man was still in the store. He immediately, warned me and asked “do you actually trust to send your paintings to this place!” I replied ”Why not, he is going to pay me in advance!” Then he kindly replied along with the clerk explained to me how this was the most tricky and settled way of having my paintings and even ask for their money back!!!.

Thanks God, they have opened my eyes and no wonder why the agent was so generous to pay me extra!!

Avoiding to make my comment long, I would end it here. But please artists, do not get too excited when you receive an offer, MAKE sure first, who is behind that little other screen, search for them on Google or anywhere way you know. I would not regret truing down the $27.000.00 on a painting I only asked for $6,000!! I would have been in Florida spending the Canadian winter.

From: Jill — Dec 04, 2008

My most recent scammer was Sheila Coey from Paris France ( who said that she was visiting her twin sister in Paris while awaiting the arrival of her new baby (Sheila’s that is.) Her husband was in the process of moving their home from New Jersey to Malaysia. Altho I mentioned my account with Paypal, he would rather send me a cheque (alert!). Nothing new here. Just wanted to leave the e-mail address in case there are others who might recognize it. Thanks for the opportunity to share experiences!

From: Dave Casey — Dec 12, 2008

I always like to answer these scam emails with bogus information. Now, the emails telling me I have had a death in the family, of some long lost uncle in Africa, who had the good sense to hide millions of dollars in secret accounts, don’t get much of a response from me. I just hit reply, copying the entire email back to the sender and writing at the very bottom, a two word reply that, well … would earn me an R rating from the movie ratings people.

Those emails that I get telling me that my bank account has been compromised are the most fun. I just send them all the information that they ask for. No one said I had to send them the “correct” information. So I just make it up on the fly. I send them a name, a social security number, a credit card number, bank account information and even a four-digit PIN number. And then sit back and sip my wine, hoping they pull every single hair out of their heads wondering why they aren’t getting any money from the information that I sent them. I have to wonder how long the Nigerian scams would continue if everyone sent back bogus information? For every one thousand phishing emails they sent out, they got back 700 with information that’s about as useful as an acrylic paint brush that’s been allowed to dry with paint crusted all over it.

From: Jaclyn — Dec 14, 2008

Here’s my first experience with a scammer, looks like the same scam from Dec 4th from Jill above…this is the email word for word

“i will like to proceed with the purchase. I think it is a lovely work that will add alot of colours to our new wall. I am presently away in London for my twin sister’s wedding even though it comes at a time when i was preparing for a big move and also expecting a baby but it means so much to her. I should be back in few days.

Meanwhile,i will like you to forward your mailing address and phone number so i can inform my husband still shutling between our home in New Jersey and Jo’burg, SA on where to forward the payment . He has just been transfer to head the IT section of their head Office in Jo’burg.

I can also forward your contact info to the local cartage company that will be moving all our house decors so they can get in touch with you to arrange shipping details. They can arrange pick up FedEx pick up of the artwork from your studio.

I will look forward to hearing from you so i can know how best to proceed. Cheers.

Best Regards, Betty Locke”

I emailed them back thanking them for the ridiculous details of her extravagant life and how I’d love to meet them in New Jersey next week, I doubt I’ll hear from “Betty” again.

From: Mary Sonya Conti — Dec 18, 2008

having received two of these email scams (haven’t opened anymore to check further) was little apprehensive even posting here. One of these individuals went as far as to send a bogus “chase money order” which took up to bank and then over to a Chase facility to turn in. When tried to alert the website (the individual had viewed my artwork on the person who had emailed more or less told me how “I had fallen for one of the oldest scams” and shouldn’t have been so naive”=I read stupid as am having problems with my resolution on the site and he is making me feel even more “dumbed up” these days. He wouldn’t provide any further help with clearing up the resolution problems or point me in the right direction. A roller coaster ride we are on these days while marketing on the internet. also, your simple math question is hard to read-sure hope I get the answer right so don’t appear as a spammer myself (smile)

From: Valerie Norberry — Dec 22, 2008

I wonder if Michigan will become the next source of scams due to the economy. Our English is much better, and we could ask for a check to support car dealerships. Oh, that has already been done? Pardon me! Well maybe grants for murals on cars or something. :}

From: Lawrence Humphrey — Dec 28, 2008
From: Felix R. — Feb 26, 2009

I received an e-mail from a man from London requesting help to collect money from his customers in the US. The funny thing is it was recommended by itself. You know the usual; Money orders an such. But what suprised me was the fact that did do a background check on this.

From: Dilanthi — Oct 06, 2010

Dear Sir,

I am an artist from Sri Lanka. Actually I want to sell my paintings. But I dont know how should i join with your website to sell my paintings. If you have any idea about that please tell me. This s my email Id –

Thank you


Dilanthi Silva.

From: tripti gupta karmakar — Apr 03, 2011

Dear sir,

i am an artist although neither i do fine art nor mordern art, but i am interested in glass painting and foil painting which is completely different from other paintings. i would be very thankful to you if you can help me in selling my paintings. i am from india, my contact no. is +917501260901, +919800827251,+919434379497. email Id-







High country dust

acrylic painting
by Stephen Quiller, USA


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Sean Burns of Williamsburg, MA, USA who wrote, “After I regained consciousness from falling on the floor laughing I walked into a door which then sent mushroom-like shapes spinning round inside my head. Thanks.”

And also Melissa Brown of Lexington, KY, USA who wrote, “Damn, and I thought my husband was buying me a birthday present for next week. If you change your mind, you may send to my USA address and we can split the shipping cost. I won’t tell Bill.”

And also Stephen Pate who wrote, “Bad English is inexcusable. Criminals should know we are erudite.”

And also Selwyn (Sell) Owen of Toronto ON, Canada who wrote, “I had a fellow write and offer me $500 k for everything in my studio. The only problem was, he said that if I accepted, I was only going to live a year. I am considering the offer.”

And also Giorgio Gallo of Italy who wrote, “I have a famous and ancient Italian sculpture on sale here, and also seven Italian Renaissance paintings.”

And also Carole Dwinell who wrote, “I got a scam just after I read your letter. Please pass the magic mushrooms.”

And also Kathryn Fortson who wrote, “I have no friggin clue what this letter means!”




Leave A Reply

No Featured Workshop
No Featured Workshop

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.